An interesting exchange went on in the House of Lords last Thursday.  A question on libraries, including one or two attempts to try to ring-fence funding for them, was waved away by reference to innovations – and especially the move to volunteers – going on in public libraries.  Cuts of up to 50% were acknowledged but with a feeling that councils are doing their best, and doing well, at avoiding these cuts actually affecting the public.  This presents a bit of a problem to local councils, and not only in the realm of public libraries.  For by doing the best they can, by working hard to minimise the impact of the deepest cuts in peacetime history, on the voter, councils are making more cuts more palatable to the politicians and to the electorate.  Of course, it would be even worse, at least in the short and medium terms, if councils failed to do the best they could.  They would be accused, quite rightly, of self injury and the public would show no mercy.  In this they would be, goaded on by political parties whose ideology values skilled public workers very little and which does not understand the difference between the words “cut” and “saving”. It’s especially sad to see stalwart defenders of public libraries, who have become volunteers, used in this way.  But in this new world of damned if you do, damned if you don’t, everything is fair game.  The trick is to learn how those in public libraries can change the game and win it.



Libraries: Funding – House of Lords

“To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the impact of changes to local government finances on libraries in the United Kingdom.” Lord Palmer of Childs Hill (Liberal Democrat)

“Many local authorities of all political persuasions are making some very interesting innovations in their library services … My Lords, I could take your Lordships through many local authorities where important changes are taking place, such as Devon, which is expanding into community hubs; Newcastle upon Tyne; Northamptonshire, where there are enterprise hubs, partnerships between Northamptonshire libraries and Northamptonshire Enterprise Partnership; and Suffolk, where there is an independent organisation with charitable status. All those local authorities of different political persuasions are doing great things with fewer resources. No one is saying that there will be more resources; we all have to deal with the cuts, which all parties now recognise are necessary for the national economy. In the main, however, local authorities are doing a very good job.” Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con)

“My Lords, will my noble friend join me in acknowledging the contribution of many local groups all over the country which are managing to keep their libraries open through volunteer work? As an example, Gresford and Marford local library, of which I am honoured to be a patron, is working with Wrexham local authority, which provides the books and the computer system, while the community group provides the manpower and raises the money for the utility bills. That works extremely well. That may be second best to having a full local authority-run library, but it does work.” Baroness Walmsley (Liberal Democrat)

UK national news

  • Big Lottery Fund awards £150m to local neighbourhood foundation – Big Lottery Fund. “The Power to Change was set up in 2015 to champion projects like the saving of local libraries, leisure centres, shops or pubs, as well as larger initiatives like the regeneration of a neighbourhood or high street.” … ““Our £150m endowment will be used by the trust to support existing and new community businesses to positively benefit local areas. This could range from saving a local library, pub or shop from closure to setting up a housing regeneration enterprise that provides local people with training and jobs. In addition, the Power to Change will produce learning that the wider community business sector can gain from.” “
  • The crisis in UK public libraries – A Beeching moment ? – Pedronicus. “there is an impending #uklibchat scheduled for the coming week on Twitter. This is to facilitate discussion on  ‘What can we do about the crisis in public libraries?’   This will be an interesting one, given the environment we are currently in as a profession.” … “The ‘Big Society’ agenda is about reducing as much of the traditional state sector as possible, as fast as possible.   The “Austerity” programme is a fundamental tool for executing this objective.   The public library service , as part of the public sector, is fair game to be carved up, outsourced, or turned over to volunteers.” … “Unless there is a new, overarching political commitment to public libraries with ring-fenced funding ,  then I am not sure what can be done. “

“It seems abundantly clear to me that, as things stand, we are not dealing with a political agenda at national governmental level that is remotely interested or concerned with “the value of libraries” in the way that many librarians and library campaigners seek to present it.   I sometime get the impression that people believe something like “if only we can demonstrate the value of libraries clearly enough, politicians and councillors will suddenly see the light and protect and fund services properly”. To me this is a delusional hope.”

  • Illiteracy…continued – Leon’s Library Blog. If Nick Clegg is “genuine about such a goal then the Liberal Democrats need a strong and clear message concerning public libraries, which should include not closing or handing them over to volunteers. Unfortunately, the Deputy Prime Minister has taken the usual coalition approach of washing his hands clean while laying all the blame on local authorities.”.  Includes letter on cuts to Coventry libraries.
  • Lleucu Siencyn: Cuts are crippling, but reading with our children will help democratise literature – Wales Online. “When the NHS is on the brink of collapse aren’t libraries, theatres and books all luxuries that we can ill-afford? This is a misleading rationale, and a false economy. It’s worth reminding ourselves that public-funded cultural institutions such as the British Council and the Arts Council were established during a period of post-war austerity.”

“Reading, and falling in love with stories, should never be the exclusive domain of the privileged few. We need to tackle poverty and fight so-called austerity with creativity and imagination. And the ultimate weapon to start this fight and bring the love of reading to every family home in Wales? It all begins with the picture book.”

“The Friends of Jesmond Library were behind efforts to secure £10,000 to re-open it three days week, with 70 founding members pledging £100 and up to 100 locals keen to fund-raise or help staff it. A year on, the library is firmly back in the business of book-lending with a nice, and essential, sideline of events such as talks, drop-in sessions for the elderly, and events to broaden its appeal.”

  • #uklibchat agenda – 3 February 2015: What can we do about the crisis in UK public libraries? – UK Lib Chat. “You probably know that UK public libraries have been affected in recent years by public sector cuts, particularly issues with local authority funding, leading to budget cuts, staff losses and closures. This trend is continuing and worsening. But what can we do about it – as citizens and as library and information professionals? As usual, we’ll be chatting on Twitter from 6.30pm-8.30pm UK time on the first Tuesday of the month: Tuesday 3 February 2015.  If you’ve not joined #uklibchat before here’s our guide to joining in #uklibchat.” [“If you’d like to make a start reading about this issue, consult the great Public Libraries News” – I like these people – Ed.]

The Forum for Interlending and Information Delivery (FIL) are delighted to confirm that the only UK annual conference specifically for and about the world of inter-library loans, Interlend 2015, will be held at The Midland Hotel, Manchester on  29-30 June, 2015. Keynote speakers, programme details and booking details will be confirmed in due course. As the premier UK inter-lending community conference, Interlend annually attracts around 60-80 inter-lending staff from all levels of seniority, although it should be noted that a large proportion of delegates are inter-lending practitioners – library assistants rather than professional grades.  Delegates are drawn from all sectors of the Library community; primarily UK based and with perhaps more from HE/FE and Public Libraries than any other sectors.  Interlend is also renowned for offering our delegates practical tips and guidance, as well as broadening their understanding of the world of inter-lending.  Speakers and workshop facilitators are encouraged to keep this in mind. The FIL committee invites applications from the inter-lending community to speak and/or run breakout or workshop sessions.

Conference Title: Interlending at the crossroads? The theme for Interlend 2015 centres around the question asked by many practitioners: Is inter-lending becoming more important as budgets shrink and we turn to collaboration with others to share resources, or can it be dismissed in this era of ‘digitise everything’? To this end, contributions are particularly welcome in addressing these issues: Open Access & the impact on Document Supply, Resource Sharing & consortia. Other topics might include: Inter-lending & Document Supply Service Reviews, Service Development/Practical solutions to everyday problems, The impact and implications of recent changes to copyright law, Inter-lending tools and systems, Digital /Social Media / Web 2.0 impact on services, especially any practical uses for inter-lending. Breakout sessions are typically 50 minutes long and can be tailored to meet the speaker’s needs – either chalk-and- talk or workshop based.

Costs: Speakers accepted at FIL events will be able to attend the conference free of charge on the day on which they are speaking, along with one night’s accommodation where required and all reasonable travelling expenses.    If speakers would like to attend the whole conference, a discounted fee of £95.00 will be charged to cover additional costs. Next steps: Proposals should include: ·        A 500 – 300 word abstract detailing your proposal and a short description of your session (max. 50 words) which will be displayed when delegates are choosing their parallel sessions. A 50 word speaker biography. Full Contact Details. Proposals should be emailed to fil.committee@gmail.com by 28th February 2014 after which point they will be reviewed by the Committee.  The Chair will be in touch with all applicants after this date to confirm or decline your proposal.  Submission of a proposal does not guarantee acceptance, and the Committee’s considered  selection of proposals is final.  Regrettably, due to time restrictions no correspondence over the decision will be entered into. Informal discussion around possible themes, topics or approaches for your sessions can be directed to Sandra DeRoy: sandrad@essex.ac.uk. More information about FIL, including how to join, is available on the FIL website at www.forumforinterlending.org.uk

International news

  • Behind the Scenes at the Texas A&M University Libraries ‘Happy’ Video – Ned Potter (USA). A guide to how and why to do a pastiche music video to promote your library.
  • Boston Public Library by the Numbers [#infographic] – Boston Public Library (USA).  A great way to make you feel your library is insignificant by comparison.
  • Five Libraries That Go Beyond Books – Huffington Post (USA). Includes (1)  library users have access to 3D printers, a 3D scanner, audio-recording equipment and even a digital vinyl cutter (2) record the author events and share them as free podcasts, so anyone can listen to them. Called the Free Library Podcast, the library has over 1,200 events recorded (3) tool-lending library. Offering over 3,500 different tools, this library lends two tools at a time for up to a week (4) access to a full pantry of cooking equipment. Whether you need a 36-cup coffee maker, a breadmaker or even a raclette, the Toronto Kitchen Library has it. Items can be borrowed for seven days. (5) video kits that include an HD digital video camera and a shotgun-style microphone. For the more advanced, they also offer wireless microphones and telescoping mic booms.
  • Map of 3D Printers in Libraries – Amanda Goodman (Global). Take a look at the two public libraries in the UK with 3D printers then compare with USA  for ultimate depression.  The UK seems to be doing well compared with everywhere else though so far (well, apart from Canada and the Netherlands) but that may be due to lack of reporting.
  • Ode to the Public Library – BlogHer (USA). “What if I told you that by using this deal, my family has saved over $4,000 dollars in the last six months alone in free books?  Free books!  We don’t get to keep them of course, this deal is more like Netflix, where you pay a monthly subscription to get access to all of these books but you do have to give them back when you are done. Except unlike Netflix, this deal is absolutely free.”
  • Top 10 Ways Your Library Can Help You Keep Your New Year’s Resolution – Huffington Post (USA). Read more, watch less TV, exercise more, keep up with current events, give more to charity, learn something new, spend more time with family, travel more, spend less, start new career, be less stressed.
  • Why I Am Not a Maker – Atlantic (USA). “It’s not, of course, that there’s anything wrong with making (although it’s not all that clear that the world needs more stuff). The problem is the idea that the alternative to making is usually not doing nothing—it’s almost always doing things for and with other people, from the barista to the Facebook community moderator to the social worker to the surgeon. Describing oneself as a maker—regardless of what one actually or mostly does—is a way of accruing to oneself the gendered, capitalist benefits of being a person who makes products”

UK local news by authority

  • Birmingham – Library of Birmingham rally to call for halt in cuts – Birmingham Post. “Local crime writer Judith Cutler and historian Professor Carl Chinn will be guest speakers while Birmingham-born poet Benjamin Zephaniah has sent a message of support which will be read out at the event on February 7, also National Library Day. In December, Birmingham City Council so it was proposing to make around 100 redundancies and reduce opening hours from 73 to 40 as a result of budget cuts at the council. The rally has been organised by the Friends of The Library of Birmingham and will start at midday in Centenary Square.”
  • Coventry – ‘The fact that councillors are even suggesting that we can run libraries on a ‘charity shop’ model with volunteers is an insult to our library service’ – Coventry Telegraph. “As a representative of the National Union of Teachers in Coventry, representing over 1,800 teachers, we are extremely concerned with the city council’s intention to reduce dramatically the number of public libraries in Coventry. We believe that libraries are uniquely placed to help foster engagement in reading. They offer free access to learning and a ‘safe’ space for children and young people to study and access resources.”
  • Harrow – School librarian to stand for Green Party in Harrow East on anti-cuts platform – Get West London. “School librarian and community activist Emma Wallace will stand in May’s general election, and has pledged to fight proposed cuts to libraries, health services and children’s centres. She will also push for more affordable housing to be built in the borough to ensure Harrow continues to be a place families can call home.”
  • Lincolnshire – Friends of Deepings Library to lobby councillors for change – Rutland and Stamford Mercury. “Members are now focusing on a meeting of the council’s community and public safety scrutiny committee on Tuesday. They hope to convince councillors to include tier 3 libraries, including Deepings Library, in the list sent to tender. A final decision will be made by the council’s executive on February 3.”
  • Lincolnshire – Lincolnshire County Council defies consultation – Lincolnshire Echo. “Following LCC’s statement of intention for the library service, we are at a loss to understand its decision to exclude all tier three libraries from the procurement process and to close them or force them to be run by amateurs. This is in defiance of all representations to the contrary during both consultations, in which not one voice, other than its own, supported ‘voluntary’ libraries.” … “If Woodhall Spa (population 4,000) can meet the criteria for a professional library, the Deepings deserves one. Yet the council is preventing us from having the chance.”
  • Lincolnshire – Save Lincolnshire Libraries stage protest at County Offices – Lincolnshire Echo. “Save Lincolnshire Libraries campaigners are staging a protest at Lincolnshire County Council’s offices next week. The demonstration is at 9.15am on Tuesday, January 27, ahead of the authority’s library scrutiny committee meeting at 10am. Six months ago a High Court judge criticised the county council’s plan to turn 30 libraries into community hubs run by volunteers. But now the authority is proposing what campaigners say is fundamentally the same plan.”
  • Monmouthshire – Group fights to stop library closure – South Wales Argus. “Around 30 people, including members of Friends of Caldicot Library, met Monmouthshire council officers at the library on Woodstock Way to discuss the future of the library. As part of the budget proposals which will go before full council tomorrow, libraries and one stop shop services will merge into one building … The community hub proposal, if approved, will see a reduction in full-time staff from 43 to 30 and will save the council £300,000 in a full year”
  • Newport – Keeping central library ‘important’ for Newport – councillors – South Wales Argus. “A joint scrutiny committee meeting on Wednesday supported proposals made by a policy review group that have been looking into crossovers between the city’s libraries and community centres. The committee’s findings will now go to the council’s cabinet for approval. The new proposals include retaining the Central Library building, but reducing the footprint of the library and museum space to one floor.”
  • North Yorkshire – ‘No guarantees’ on future of North Yorkshire libraries – Wetherby News. “Executive member for library services Coun Chris Metcalfe (Con) said no assurances could be given, responding to Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones’ calls for NYCC to intervene before libraries are allowed to decline. Mr Jones’ concerned request to NYCC comes almost three months after it launched a three-month consultation on cutting £3.6m from its libraries budget by 2020.” … “The consultation on libraries closes in February 2015. Plans include withdrawing council staff and asking volunteers to step in, leading to widespread fears that many libraries could close. Mr Jones has written to NYCC’s chief executive Richard Flinton asking for assurances that if the community model doesn’t work at the three libraries that NYCC will guarantee this will not be allowed.”
  • Peterborough – Vivacity warning £1.45m cuts threaten Peterborough’s culture and leisure services – Peterborough Today. “A cultural desert is being forecasted for Peterborough due to a near £1.5 million budget cut to arts and leisure funding. The chief executive of Vivacity, which runs the the city’s library, culture and sports services, is warning that cuts will be “signficant and far reaching.”” … “The budget proposals are up for public consultation from tomorrow until March 2 and will be voted on by full council two days later. Vivacity, which has made more than £5 million of savings in the past five years, is warning its funding cut will threaten the ‘heart of the city.’” … “The budget proposals are up for public consultation from tomorrow until March 2 and will be voted on by full council two days later. Vivacity, which has made more than £5 million of savings in the past five years, is warning its funding cut will threaten the ‘heart of the city.’”
  • Sheffield – Protest held at Sheffield library over business centreStar. “A protest was held outside Sheffield’s Central Library over it becoming a new business centre. Former library staff and activitists took part after part of the reference library was made available for entrepreneurs to check patents . One former library worker said it was an attempt to ‘distract’ people from massive library cuts”
  • Sheffield – Talks still ongoing over Sheffield library takeover – Star. “A community library is still being run by Sheffield Council – over three months after it was expected to be taken over by volunteers. The facility in Burngreave was one of 15 libraries which the authority relinquished control of in controversial measures to save £650,000 a year despite lengthy protests from residents. While the rest of the libraries have been taken over by community groups, most at the end of September or in early October, Burngreave is still being run by librarians employed by the council.
  • Shropshire – Church Stretton residents say “keep our library where it is” – Shropshire Live. “The rally was to let Shropshire councillors and BBC camera crew, which included reporter and presenter Satnam Rada, know that plans to move the library to an out-of-town site would not be accepted. The Church Stretton Library support group has repeatedly made the point that the relocation will disadvantage our older library users and reduce use as a result of poorer quality access and reduced facilities. In addition the group says it is an attack on the strong links between many community facilities and local shops and cafes which contribute so much to the distinctive character of Church Stretton.”
  • Staffordshire – All Staffordshire libraries will get professional support even if they become community run says county council libraries guru – Staffordshire Newsletter. “Libraries which are set to be run and managed by their local community will remain part of the county’s library network, Janene Cox told a council scrutiny meeting today, while other volunteer-run libraries will be managed by the county council as part of the amended proposals for the county’s library service.”
  • Staffordshire – Book a date for library takeover – Sentinel. The “first volunteers to take over the running of libraries in Staffordshire are set to be handed the keys to the buildings this autumn. If the proposals are approved by Staffordshire County Council’s cabinet, adverts are likely to be published in June.”
  • Trafford – Trafford Lib Dem candidate calls on volunteers to step up as youth centres face cuts – Mancunian Matters. “Ms Ankers is backing the cuts and believes everyone can do their bit. She said: “When it comes to things like parks and libraries it’s something that I would like to preserve as much as possible. “People could step forward and do more work on a voluntary basis or within the community but it’s kind of a question of priorities really. “Keeping somebody fed and looked after in their own home or making sure that children’s services are protected is sometimes more of a priority.”