The first Westminster Hall debate for a few years (the last one being in January 2011) has taken place, with Labour and Conservatives attacking each other’s record on the subject.  There was some interesting debate about the poor record of the Conservatives from the Labour Party and some accusations of Labour closing more libraries from the Conservatives.  In reality, both parties are cutting spending on libraries: who it is doing it depends simply on who is in power and how much their budgets have been cut by the Coalition Government.  It’s always amusing to see Ed Vaizey claiming that the situation with libraries is rosy and this time he excelled himself by even managing to claim responsibility for the new Liverpool and Birmingham libraries, both of which owe their revamps to decisions made before 2010.  Ed asking “what can one do from the centre?” in one breath and then claiming to be a “pro-active campaigner”for libraries almost in the next was pushing it a tad though.



  • Literacy hub – including all organisations interested in literacy in an area including libraries.


  • 2010-2014: From Community Library to Community-run library: a look at the impact of volunteers – Public Libraries News. A review of the impact of volunteer libraries on the UK public library sector, written for the Seventh National Public Libraries Conference in Spain [by me – Ed.]
  • Audit Office slams Government for failing to properly assess effects of further council cuts – Northern Echo. “Further council cuts are being rammed through with no assessment of whether libraries and youth services will be culled, a watchdog warns today (Wednesday, November 18). The Government comes under fire for failing to properly examine the impact of slashing town hall funding by an extra ten per cent, ahead of next year’s general election.”
  • Watch Scroobius Pip’s ‘Library’ Poem – BBC.
  • Create: A journal of perspectives on the value of art and culture – Arts Council England.  Includes article by Neil Gaiman (previously reported in Guardian) on public libraries and a brief mention by John Major.
  • Local libraries face cutbacks – Parentdish. “Libraries are facing closure or a reduction in opening hours – and the only solution seems to be to bring in more volunteers.  And who exactly is supposed to volunteer for all this? Mums? No, we’re all supposed to go back to work, remember? Grandparents? No, they’re too busy doing all the childcare for their grandchildren…  Libraries are so crucial for children. I don’t know how my three brothers and I would have survived without our weekly trips to the library. We’d devour as many books as we could while we were there, and take home as many as we could get on our cards.”
  • Public Libraries (England) – Westminster Hall Debates / They Work For You. A highly partisan debate with the Labour shadow minister blaming the Conservatives and the Conservative minister blaming Labour councils and the previous Labour Government.

“What astounds me about the Minister’s contribution is that he does not seem to think that he has any responsibility in this debate. He wants to offload the responsibility on to councils, but he has offered very little leadership to enable those councils to take decisions collectively to make the best of their resources. I do not understand how the Minister has the brass neck.” Lyn Brown MP, Shadow Minister (Communities and Local Government); West Ham, Labour.

“Although both speeches were excellent, another element that added to my frustration is that the only library authorities to be criticised were Conservative-controlled. If someone made it back in Philae from the comet that is spinning hundreds of millions of miles away from us and landed in this debate, they would think that everything was perfect both under Labour authorities and under the previous Labour Government. It may surprise people to learn that libraries did close under the last Government, and that many Labour local authorities have closed libraries over the past four years.” Ed Vaizey

“We intend to publish the Sieghart report and our response to it in the next few weeks. As the hon. Lady will know, getting a slot in the Government grid is sometimes difficult” Ed Vaizey

“What can one do from the centre? I cannot and do not want to run 151 library authorities, not only because it is physically impossible for me to do so, but because I believe local authorities should run their library services. I can encourage them and work with them … while I may understand the frustration and sometimes even the anger of some library campaigners, I feel that I can hold my head up high, in terms of being a proactive campaigner for the library sector.” Ed Vaizey

  • Salisbury boy wins UK-wide Finish The Story competition – Reading Agency. “The Reading Agency’s Summer Reading Challenge each year keeps hundreds of thousands of children reading over the summer holidays, via their local libraries. But once again, some of them have also enjoyed writing endings to short stories started by six top authors, as part of the UK-wide Finish The Story competition. Now The Reading Agency is delighted to announce that the overall winner of their third annual Finish The Story competition is eleven year old Nathan Burn from Salisbury in Wiltshire.  Of stories specially begun for the competition by Cathy Cassidy, Sarah McIntyre,McKenzie Crook, Eoin Colfer and Rick Riordan, each author recently chose their favourite ending to their story, with details of the six young finalists announced on The Reading Agency’s website. A judging panel then met to read all six story endings and decide on the overall winner.
  • Vaizey accused of ‘offloading responsibility’ on libraries – BookSeller. “A parliamentary debate on libraries descended into “personal attacks” between libraries minister Ed Vaizey and shadow communities and local government minister Lyn Brown. Speaking at a Westminster Hall debate on public libraries yesterday (19th December), Brown, a Labour MP for West Ham, questioned Vaizey’s lack of intervention into local councils’ plans to close multiple libraries across the UK.” … “Vaizey then said that Labour had never called for him to intervene in any local authority decision, and that the power had only ever been used once by any previous libraries minister.” … “Brown said the thrust of her argument was that “the government has failed to take leadership on the crisis in our libraries and our communities.” Vaizey responded: “I reject that accusation”, and listed developments such as new libraries in Birmingham and Liverpool as examples of positive steps.” [both Birmingham and Liverpool were built due to decisions made under the previous Labour Government – Ed].


  • A Field Trip to America’s Public Libraries – The Atlantic (USA). “Here are three things among many I have noticed about libraries. They are telling for the way libraries speak to needs in our communities across America. It’s not just my impression; the numbers collected behind the phenomena are strong, and the human stories behind them resonate as true.” (1) Libraries are for job seekers (2) are hubs of activity (3) are “anchor places”
  • Dialogue on Public Libraries – NAPLE (Global). “The Aspen Institute Dialogue on Public Libraries is a forum that gathers “thought leaders from business, technology, education, government, the nonprofit sector and libraries” seeking to “shape and advance a renewed national vision for public libraries in the 21st century”.” Links to some very useful resources.
  • The digital open source library of tomorrow – Open Source (USA). “The library fulfills its promise when people of different ages, races, and cultures come together to pool their talents in creating new creative content.” One thing to think about is whether this change from analog to digital can happen in libraries without changing the name of the library.”
  • Homeless find hope, refuge and community at public libraries – CBC (Canada). “It’s a funny story between us,” Mulholland recalls, “because for the first few months that I was bumping into him there I didn’t even realize that there was an outreach worker relationship going on between me and him.”
  • Libraries Offer Prepaid Visa Debit Cards to Patrons – NerdWallet (USA). “Institutions in three states offer library cards that double as prepaid Visa debit cards, under a program started last summer by SirsiDynix, a Lehi, Utah-based software company. Participating libraries get a portion of the fees paid for the service, while patrons get a less expensive alternative to opening a checking account, if they don’t have one. As a library service, the cards may be a boon to people who don’t know that prepaid debit cards are even an option for storing money and paying for merchandise without a bank account” … “So far, Staley’s institution has issued 216 cards, but only 15 have been activated by their holders.”
  • Library Ireland Week 2014 – Open for Business – Library Association of Ireland (Eire). “The theme of this year’s Library Ireland Week is “Open for Business” focusing on the role of libraries in serving the business community and in supporting entrepreneurship, job skills and creation, innovation, and much more.”
  • Seriously though, how did the Most Beautiful Library in America get Demolished? – Messy Nessy (USA). Some beautiful (if not downright amazing) pictures of the old Cincinnati Library, demolished “without a whimper” in 1955.

UK local news by authority

“The challenge libraries faced, Mr Jones told the select committee, was to provide a statutory service that had a strong community attachment in a climate of declining use. The vision was for libraries, with around 1.7m visits a year, to be a network of hubs forming the face of the council in the heart of the community. “

  • Cardiff – Cardiff libraries in Whitchurch and Rhiwbina face possible funding cuts under new budget proposals – Wales Online. “Popular libraries in two of the capital’s suburbs could be under threat from new budget proposals being put forward by Cardiff Council. Removing funding from the libraries in Whitchurch and Rhiwbina and building a community hub at the library in Llandaff North is feared to be one of the options being considered by the local authority.”. Rumney: “More than 2,100 people have signed a petition calling for the library to remain open”
  • Cornwall – “Loop the Loop, St Ives was a series of events at St Ives library in Cornwall, inspired by books. Artist/filmmaker Joanna Mayes was in residence at St Ives library for two weeks and invited visitors to talk about books, film and how to process it with coffee! Jo then invited other artists to come down during the second week, providing drop-in activities, workshops and general mayhem and a great deal of fun ensued! See the Loop the Loop St Ives events for details of activities which took place there. Watch this space for links to film taken and processed by Jo and videos of work made by workshop participants.” … The second Loop the Loop library event will be in St Austell next week, including “ambient ukuleles”
    Cornwall – Leon Remphry, 10, hosting Falmouth debate over library opening hours being cut – West Briton. “A ten-year-old Falmouth lad is hosting his own debate with local politicians and authors as part of his campaign to save Cornwall’s libraries from reduced opening hours. Leon Remphry, who launched his Write to Read campaign in July, plans to debate with councillors at an event tomorrow. According to Leon, Cornwall Council’s Cabinet member for partnerships, Adam Paynter, and Conservative group leader Fiona Ferguson have confirmed they will attend, along with former librarian Derek Toyne and author Michael Morpurgo. Leon said: “These library cuts have to be stopped.”

“In October Axminster Library launched a Seed Library.   Seed Libraries are popular in the US and among horticultural societies in the UK but it is believed this is the first Seed Library in a public library in the UK.   Axminster has a population of 18,000. The library already has a community moth garden and the Seed Library seemed the next step.  The launch was also part of the Active Life, Active Mind initiative which takes place in all Devon Libraries in October and aims to promote well-being.

In the months prior to the launch borrowers were asked to donate seeds in a special Seed Library envelope, on which they wrote why they liked the plant and offered planting tips.  The seeds have then been ‘borrowed’ by other library users. We say ‘borrowed’ because we hope the seeds will be planted and once established, borrowers will be able to bring seeds back to the library.  There is a Seed Library catalogued that has to be regularly updated.  The Seed Library was launched by Will Livingstone, head gardener at River Cottage HQ, who are  enthusiastic and generous supporters of the Seed Library.

The launch had considerable national interest on Twitter.   In Devon so far three other libraries have expressed an interest in starting Seed Libraries, as has one library in Dorset.  As we develop the Seed Library we will need to work out whether libraries should have their own library or whether we have one central library that we all pool into. ” Devon Axminster Seed Library (via email)

  • Lincolnshire – Greenwich Leisure Services back in the running to take over Lincolnshire’s libraries – Louth Leader. “Officers have recommended that the Executive Member for Libraries, Coun Nick Worth, formally accepts GLL’s expression as having met the criteria. Tony McGinty from the Community Right to Challenge Panel said: “If the panel’s recommendation is approved and GLL’s expression of interest is accepted as valid, the council will need to carry out a procurement exercise, which will probably lead to library services being put out to tender.” see also Lincolnshire libraries may be put out to tender after firm’s bid – Lincolnite. ““Because of the work involved in a tender process, it is likely to be at least a year before a final decision is reached.”
  • Monmouthshire – Techie award for Monmouthshire libraries – Alyson’s Welsh Libraries Blog. “The Carnegie UK Trust have just announced their first round of Library Lab funding recipients, and Claire Lewis from Monmouthshire Libraries has won one of the places for her ‘ideas garage’ proposed project. Claire is planning to create a community-led coding space in Chepstow Library (I think! This was refurbished with Welsh Government and Monmouthshire funding) which will be for people who want to gain and share skills and experience of coding, help them create and develop websites and games, and to increase their employability.”
  • North East Lincolnshire – Residents vote to put up precept to keep Laceby’s library open – Grimsby Telegraph. “Less than 100 villagers attended a public meeting, organised by Laceby Parish Council, at the Cooper Lane venue which houses the library and rooms used by community groups.” … “Chair of the parish council Martin Greenbeck told the meeting: “The closure of this building would be disastrous. “The fact that you people have taken the trouble to come along shows you are interested in keeping the building open. But we need to know how much you are willing to pay and who will volunteer to help run things if it is going to work.”
  • North Yorkshire – Fears over Skipton Library’s opening hours – Craven Herald and Pioneer. “With a planned ratio of 60 per cent paid staff and 40 per cent volunteers, the library could face a 40 per cent reduction in its opening hours without community help” … “roles would change to become more supervisory, overseeing the community libraries and assisting volunteers, who would be trained to carry out duties including meeting and greeting, shelving books and carrying out story telling. “

“Ms Blaisdale likened the future running of the library to the Citizens Advice Bureau, where a paid member of staff was in charge of a number of volunteers.”

  • Peterborough – Storytelling and book giveaway tour will launch new campaign to raise Peterborough’s literacy levels – Peterborough Council. “The National Literacy Trust has joined forces with Peterborough City Council with funding from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation to launch a new scheme to boost literacy levels in Peterborough and improve the life chances and employability of the city’s residents.” … “The National Literacy Trust is addressing low literacy levels by setting up a ‘literacy hub’ in the city. Bringing together a range of exciting local partners including Stagecoach buses, Peterborough United Foundation, Axiom Housing, Cross Keys Housing, Peterborough Phantoms, Vivacity, Family Nursing Partnership and SureStore self storage,  the initiative will put  literacy on the agenda in Peterborough, extend the reach of literacy support and distribute books into the community. To celebrate the launch of the Peterborough Literacy Campaign, local storytellers, sports stars and campaign ambassadors will tour the city on a dedicated Stagecoach bus, delivering fun storytelling sessions and free books to children from 3 local schools and 3 local children’s centres across Peterborough.”
  • Southampton – Rose, 9, pleads with council to save Cobbett Road library in Bitterne Park – Daily Echo. “Rose Hickman called for Cobbett Road Library in Bitterne Park to stay open as she spoke at a full meeting of Southampton City Council yesterday. Speaking afterwards Rose said: “I would like them to not reduce hours or take away librarians and to keep it open.”
  • Sunderland – Council hails Sunderland library closure programme ‘a success’ – Sunderland Echo. “Readers in Sunderland are borrowing more books than before nine libraries were closed in a controversial move last year – council bosses said. A year on from the move, which was intended to save £850,000 a year and left Wearside with just 11 libraries, the closure scheme has been hailed a success by those in power.

“figures contained in a report to Sunderland City Council’s scrutiny committee, show the number of books being issued has risen from 673,568 last year, to 689,683 this year. It also says the number of community activities, including reading groups, rhyme times and knit and natter groups, have more than doubled.”

  • Swindon – Librarians insulted – Swindon Advertiser. “Many redundant librarians have several degrees and decades of experience, but now it seems anyone who fancies having a go just has to volunteer. Low-paid library staff too have lost their jobs. The Big Society in action! The plain truth is that over time volunteers will dwindle and the solution is unsustainable in the long term” see Volunteers insulted – Swindon Advertiser. “Just maybe the time has come for the Library Service to be put on the same level as Leisure Services that is to be put out to private contractors. Only then will the true value of what our volunteers have achieved be appreciated.”