So I did some calculations on the CIPFA figures yesterday (a national newspaper had emailed wanting some info – this sort of thing happens a lot: I had already helped Radio 4 earlier this week) and one thing jumped out.  This is that there may be a decline in English public libraries but there  is not in Wales, with the major difference between them – and I’m Welsh and living in England so I know of where I speak – is that Welsh budgets have been OK up until now while the English ones have been slashed. How slashed? Well, statistics are wonderful things but if you completely ignore inflation the minimum that English budgets are down  is 18% since 2010 and, if you include inflation using the Bank of England calculator, then the most that they’re down is a whopping, a gigantic, 38.6%.  Nearly two-fifths in four years?  Let’s just be quiet for a second, contemplate the horror, and then move on (See this page for more statistical details). There are also other differences tooof course – Wales actually has Standards and a nationwide e-book/e-zine offer for instance – that will have made an impact but the key for my money is, well, the money.  Let’s hope then that England becomes more like Wales, and not vice versa. Get those singing voices trained now, Limeys, because, trust me, I’ve been in enough English churches to know that generally you lot need the practice.

One money thing that has stayed the same in England the last few years, and it has been announced will do so for another three years, is the Arts Council England grants for arts in public libraries.  I’ve always been ambivalent about this.  On the one hand, they’re a great resource for libraries to gain publicity and to encourage new audiences.  On the other, well, it’s just plain strange to see often the same library authority announcing deep cuts and also some fancy arts library project in the same year and sometimes even in the same month.  The challenge for libraries taking on these projects therefore should be to make them count.  The time has gone, if it ever was here, where a service can get away with a nice feel-good project, employ a few artists, and then move on to the next grant.


UK national news

  • Arts Council England announces a further £6 million to be allocated through Grants for the arts to public libraries – Arts Council England. “The Grants for the arts Libraries fund, which is funded by the National Lottery, will invest a further £6 million over three years, demonstrating Arts Council’s ongoing commitment to libraries. It will continue to fund projects delivered by public libraries or library authorities working in partnership with cultural organisations across all art forms, including music, dance, theatre, visual arts and literature.”

“Public libraries can apply for grants of between £1,000 and £100,000 covering activities lasting up to three years. The fund will open to applications on 1st April 2015 and will run until 31st March 2018. Phase one of the fund will remain open until 31st March 2015 and there will be no break between the end of the first phase and the start of the second. The application criteria will remain the same. Find out how to apply here.”

  • Libraries’ incomes are on the rise, says survey – South Wales Argus. Budget up 18.5% [! – Ed.]  but visits down 3% in one year.
  • Library cuts are pay cuts. Really – Bookword. “What is more risible? The notion that culture and sport have wellbeing impacts? The attempt to quantify and value these so-called impacts? Or the knowledge that this ‘salary’, which you probably didn’t know you had from libraries and the arts will be cut by people who wouldn’t notice a rise or a cut of £2500? It is certainly not amusing that 49 branches have closed in the last 12 months.”

“The number of people borrowing from public libraries in Wales is up by almost 5% in the last 12 months – whilst the UK as a whole has seen a decrease of over 4% according to figures released by CIPFA (Chartered Institute for Public Finance & Accountancy) for 2013-14. Whilst visits to libraries and book issues have slightly decreased, there were still over 14 million physical visits to public libraries across Wales last year and over 12.3 million books issued to library users. Audio-visual and electronic issues, including e-books and e-zines rose to over 1 million showing an increase in usage of 19% compared to last year. The all-Wales roll out of free e-books and e-magazines is a major factor in this increase … The level of enquiries made to library staff increased by 27% to over 2.6 million. And with many public services now being delivered primarily online this has led to an increase of over 3% in computer use in libraries, with over 2 million hours of free computer use.” Welsh libraries are bucking the trend – Welsh Libraries”

  • When rubbish goes uncollected people may start to notice the misery – Guardian / Public Leader’s Network. Over the last five years “Libraries and day centres were closed, grants to voluntary groups cut, services outsourced, management posts culled, staff made redundant, wages frozen, costs shunted, partner agencies antagonised and mergers contemplated. People protested over the loss of their library and the reduction in their mother’s home care; they went to court to get a judicial review of plans to close elderly people’s care homes – but the cuts went ahead. The trade unions couldn’t stop the outsourcing, redundancies or wage freeze, but without them staff wouldn’t have won any safeguards and would have been totally reliant on management for information.”

If CIPFA trends continue, English public libraries hit zero in 2022 – Tim Coates


  • 6 Things I Learned From Working In A Public Library – Thought Catalog (USA). A great US-orientated post on library work explaining how busy it is and the weird and wonderful variety of people you meet working in a library.
  • A Doggone Good Time: Therapy Dogs at the Library – Mr Library Dude (USA). “It’s a great way to put a different face on the academic library: to show students we care about their mental well-being. We want them relaxed for Final Exams. We want to relieve those jitters for a little while. This gives them an opportunity to take a break from studying if for just a bit.” … “For the library it costs little money. The local kennel club participants volunteer their time for free. Our marketing is via the library website, Facebook, and Twitter. We spent some money printing posters. It’s also important to be in contact with your parent organization’s risk management person to make sure the appropriate paperwork and insurance forms are filled out. Otherwise, it’s a pretty easy event to handle.”
  • Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover: Tech-Savvy Teens Remain Fans of Print Books – Nielsen (USA). “Despite teens’ tech-savvy reputation, this group continues to lag behind adults when it comes to reading e-books, even with the young adult genre’s digital growth relative to the total e-book market. While 20% of teens purchasing e-books, 25% of 30-44 year olds and 23% of 18-29 year olds buy digital copies. While younger readers are open to e-books as a format, teens continue to express a preference for print that may seem to be at odds with their perceived digital know-how.”
  • New Halifax library officially opens its doors to the public – Globe and Mail (Canada). “At an estimated cost of $57.6 million the building has been touted as the new architectural centrepiece of the city’s downtown core. The 129,00 square foot facility features a larger collection of books than the building it is replacing, as well as meeting and study rooms, technology areas for computers, cafes and a 300-seat auditorium.” … “The federal government is contributing up to $18.3 million and the Nova Scotia government $13 million towards the cost of the project, with the remainder being funded through the municipality and a public funding campaign.”
  • Support the construction of a new Alaskan library by helping us create a Harry Potter tribute wall – Indiegogo (USA). “Juneau, Alaska is currently in the process of building a brand new library branch, which is partially thanks to a one MILLION dollar donation from the Friends of the Juneau Public Library, a local non-profit. To help raise funds, the Friends are selling engraved bricks, which will be placed in three different outside walls of the new library.”
  • Things That Make the Librarian Angry – Medium / Jessamyn West (USA). A look at the artificial barriers put in the way of librarians due to copyright law e.g. limited lending of e-books, photocopying.

UK local news by authority

  • Barnet – Save Barnet Libraries – Stop the privatisation of public libraries. Updates news so far.
  • Birmingham – Acclaimed library to halve hours after just one year Financial Times. see also Birmingham Update – Stop the privatisation of public libraries. Updates news so far and Birmingham axes 1,000 jobs and cuts back library hours – Morning Star.
  • Brent – Brent Libraries Bucking the Trend Again – James Powney’s Blog. “As I suggested, library authorities around England are seeing visits and loans drop at an alarming rate.  The Brent figures are going up in both cases.  It is also worth noting that Brent library satisfaction ratings as measured by PLUS were better in 2012 than they were in 2009.    I see that Brent does not quite get Wembley Library in the top ten busiest libraries in the Guardian piece, as it has “only” 651,677 visits for the year ending March 2014.  A glance at the more recent half year data suggests to me that that picture will change at the end of this financial year, as by then Wembley Library should be getting more than one million visits a year.   Of course, it will again take a while for us to see this as CIPFA publish their comparisons quite late in the financial year.  Nonetheless, it is a good indication (yet again) that the Libraries Transformation Project was the right way to go.”
  • Cardiff – We should fight to save our libraries – Wales Online / Letters. “Can we presume that since so many council services are disappearing the salaries of the elected members, or even their numbers, will be reduced by the same proportion as the council employees who are losing their jobs? As M. King has stated, libraries cost so little yet offer so much, so we should fight any attempt to remove them.”
  • Edinburgh – Edinburgh University give library card to cat – Edinburgh Evening News. “The feline has his own Facebook page set up by students with 6,100 “likes”. And now the black and white pet has been made “official” by getting a card for the library, complete with a photo and 2017 expiry date.”
  • Edinburgh – Visitor numbers treble at Central Library on George IV Bridge in Edinburgh – BBC. “Edinburgh’s oldest public library has seen its visitor numbers treble after a major refurbishment of its music and children’s collections. Central Library on George IV Bridge has reported visitor numbers up by 188%. The children’s library, based a few doors down, moved into the main library. A dedicated craft space, nappy changing and an under-fives room were added and a Lego Club was introduced. Book lending is up by 45%. The new music library has increased visitors by 26%.”
  • Hertfordshire – Petition to save Buntingford Library handed to County Hall Hertfordshire Mercury. “Apetition to save a popular library service was handed into County Hall after garnering huge support from residents. The campaign to save Buntingford library garnered 2,216 signatures, the equivalent to roughly half the town’s population.” … “Under current proposals Buntingford’s Library could be moved from its High Street location and could face cuts in staff and see the introduction of a virtual librarian service. Their new shared home could be a small porter cabin near the town’s fire station.”
  • Monmouthshire – Concerns over library closure – South Wales Argus. “Matthew Plumb, chairman of Friends of Abergavenny Library Services (FOALS) is concerned at the proposal that library service provision is to be merged with the One Stop Shop (OSS) and relocated.”
  • Newcastle – Nick Forbes: we were whistleblowers for what austerity meant for the arts – Guardian. ““We’ve cut our play service and youth service,” Forbes said. “We have had to reduce the libraries. We have cut sport and leisure. We have reduced support for older people; we’ve cut bin collections; we’ve cut street cleaning. We have lost our flower programme in the city. We’ve cut graffiti removal. We’ve lost getting on for 1,200 cuts from the council.” Newcastle lopped £37m from its spending in 2013-14, £38m this year, and more is to come.”
  • Norfolk –  Norwich’s Millennium Library most popular in the UK – EDP. “The library issued at 1,124,406 items in the year. The achievement comes despite the East of England undergoing one of the UK’s largest percentage reductions of book stocks in its libraries. In 2013-14 this saw the region reduce its total book stock by 6.8 percent, the equivalent of 500,000 less books.”
  • North Ayrshire – Schools, bins and libraries hit by £20m cuts – Largs and Millport News. “Among the list of cuts and charges set to come into effect next year are the introduction of charging for blue and brown recycling bins, an increase in special uplift charges to £13.50, a rise in school meal prices to £2, reduced business support staff hours, reductions to child care support, business grants, funding for the recently launched nurturing excellence programme, reduction in library opening hours, budgets for community facilties”
  • Northamptonshire – Council eyes ‘next generation’ model and retained organisation with 150 staff – Local Government Lawyer. “According to a report on the BBC, the plan – if implemented – could see all but 150 council staff transferred to these organisations. Northamptonshire said the retained organisation would “oversee ‘right sourcing’ of Safeguarding and Wellbeing outcomes and hold the responsibility for statutory duties, Quality Assurance and the democratic interface between elected members and their constituents.”
  • Southampton – Keep our Burgess Road Library – Change.org. “For four days a week this is the only free, open-access indoor space where anyone can go.  Children especially are safe here, after school and in holidays.  They are encouraged to learn, and stimulated by all the activities that library staff devise and put on. It is a neighbourhood library, where we meet as neighbours, where the children have opportunities they might not have otherwise.”
  • Staffordshire – Protest over planned changes to Staffordshire library services – Express and Star. “Councillors want more than half of libraries in the county to be run by volunteers in a bid to help save £1.3m over the next three years. Jobs are also at risk as the proposals would see community organisations take on 24 of the county’s 43 libraries. A total of 8,255 residents have now signed petitions against the idea. Addressing a meeting of the full council yesterday Claire Geoghegan, of the Friends of Penkridge Library, said that it was unfair to expect volunteers to replace librarians.”
  • Staffordshire – Staffordshire County Council leaders told library volunteers need supportSentinel. “Conservative councillors rejected claims by Labour that the shake-up is a result of funding cuts from Government, and said the service must adapt to a change in how people use it. Council leader Philip Atkins said: “They are a vital part of the community, but if we go through the review, and look at what we can get, we could have more local libraries. “There could be more places where you can collect books. Click and collect is the way people are moving in the future.”
  • Tri-borough – Has the Tri-Borough Project improved services for residents? – Stop the privatisation of public libraries. “The creation of a single library card and the joint procurement of a Library Management System (LMS) are mentioned” in report but staff do not think the change to one authority has improved the customer experience.
  • Walsall – Support grows in bid for Walsall Council to rethink plans to axe Pheasey Library – Walsall Advertiser. “Pheasey Library on Collingwood Drive is one of several libraries Walsall Council is proposing to shut in 2015/16 to save £500,000 of the enormous £86 million they need to salvage over the next four years. But residents living near the facility have rallied to save their library from closure, with more than 1300 people already adding their signatures to a petition against the swinging cuts.”