I was shocked to see the events in Paris at the Charlie Hebdo offices. I simply don’t know what the public librarian response to it should be but that by R. David Lankes below is a good place to start.  But, I hope, every librarian will stand up and be able to say “Je Suis Charlie”. Remember that when you’re asked to cut or not stock something just because someone doesn’t agree with it for some reason.

Birmingham Council appear to have shot themselves in the foot by publicising what appears to be their private imaginings about the British Library helping to save the Library of Birmingham.  The British Library has confirmed to me and to others that, while they wish the LoB every good wish, they simply had not even been approached by the council before the story was made public.  Sheesh.  No wonder Birmingham is in the mess it is in (well, apart from Austerity) if this is how they do things.

A new library campaign song has been recorded but pictures of closed/threatened libraries and/or of library staff who have lost their jobs (or users who now have no library) are needed.  If you can help, please email weneedlibraries@gmail.com.


Magna Carta & the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act – By Shirley Burnham

This year we celebrate the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, a totemic emblem of our nation’s civil liberties.  Since 1215 every effort to undermine its impact has failed;  monarchs who tried to suppress discussion of it were rewarded by civil war and the execution of Charles I.

Magna Carta is still cited by politicians and lawyers in support of constitutional positions, even though almost all its content was repealed from the statute books in the 19th and 20th centuries.  It is described as “the greatest constitutional document of all times – the foundation of the freedom of the individual against the arbitrary authority of the despot” (Lord Denning, 1956).  Today’s coalition government has recently insisted that all school-children must study it.

“Those who now dismiss the 1964 Libraries Act as not fit for purpose, due to the introduction of digital technology and other factors, I accuse of taking the same stance as the barons and knights who reneged ..”


Magna Carta is the precursor to all our statutory law, including the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 which, just like Magna Carta, has lost some practical significance with the passage of time, but shares its principles.  The introduction of new laws and new technology during 800 years has not reduced the importance of Magna Carta’s legacy, it seems agreed.  So do these anomalies render either of these documents irrelevant to our national life?  No, they do not!

Those who now dismiss the 1964 Libraries Act as not fit for purpose, due to the introduction of digital technology and other factors, I accuse of taking the same stance as the barons and knights who reneged on much of what they signed up to at Runnymede and the monarchs who opposed Magna Carta from the start.  I also impute to our current leaders a similar motivation:  the desire to reduce the rights of citizens and consolidate their own power.

I claim that, in its own minor way, the 1964 Act should share some of Magna Carta’s iconic status.  It, too, enshrines principles that protect the rights of ordinary people from today’s despots.

“I claim that, in its own minor way, the 1964 Act should share some of Magna Carta’s iconic status.  It, too, enshrines principles that protect the rights of ordinary people from today’s despots.”


Incidentally, the 1964 Act had its own anniversary last year (50 years) but Government failed either to mark the occasion or apply the legislation to any one of the dozens of local authorities where the library service is threatened.  I hope that David Cameron, Ed Vaizey and Sajid Javid might consider when celebrating the anniversary of Magna Carta this year that such commemoration implies a respect for the Law.  They must avoid laying themselves open to any charges of hypocrisy.

UK national news  

  • A tear-jerking tract – Morning Star. “The review of England’s public libraries produced by William Sieghart, released as Parliament adjourned for Christmas, suggests that the Tories wanted to bury it. It makes desperately sad reading, with yet another call for the “complete reinvigoration” of the public library service after years of neglect. ” … “A socialist government would ensure every library and home had this technology. Libraries could be paid for promoting borrowing, especially in hard-to-reach communities. The Scottish Book Trust wants every child to be enrolled in a public library but why stop there? Every citizen should be opted in, as they are to the NHS, with a national library card. Public libraries are good for our health and education. They are not just a local resource but should form part of a larger, national system which, like the library catalogue, should be available to every user as part of their rights as a citizen. 

“The OBE for Staffordshire’s Janine Cox in the new year honours comes at an awkward time, as the county prepares to offload 24 of its smaller public libraries on to volunteers. Ms Cox was given the award for services to libraries nationally.  She has served as president of the Society of Chief Librarians and was a member of the advisory panel for William Sieghart’s report on the future of libraries.  It concluded in December that libraries were essential to the well-being of the nation and noted that there are questions over the long term viability of volunteer-only libraries. In Staffordshire, meanwhile, library users are awaiting the final decision, due by February, after a consultation over plans to give individuals and community groups the “opportunity” to take over 24 less busy libraries (unsurprisingly ones in small rural communities) leaving just 19 properly staffed and managed by the council.” Private Eye “Library News” Issue No. 1383 p.28


  • Kindle sales have ‘disappeared’, says UK’s largest book retailer – Telegraph. “Waterstones says sales of physical books rose 5pc in December, while Kindle sales collapsed “
  • Now is the time to speak up for our public libraries – Mature Times. Full text of my article on supporting public libraries that has appeared in the January edition of the Mature Times. “There’s another reason why now has never been a better time to fight for your local library. There’s a General Election coming up, with many local elections too and politicians take account of what people say. If you get door-stepped, make sure to mention that you use the library and how strongly you feel that it should stay open. Believe it or not, candidates pay attention to that sort of thing. Write a letter to your local candidates and, if brave, to your newspapers too.”


  • ALA Publishes Report on Need to Develop Institutional Policies Regarding 3D Printing in Libraries – Library Journal (USA). “author Charlie Wapner encourages libraries, as leaders of the digital learning and 3D printing movement, to take a proactive role in developing institutional policies that address the social, technological and political complexities that result from the rise of 3D printing.”
  • Charlie Hebdo – R David Lankes (USA). “The first lesson is to fight violence with information and understanding … in the wake of tragedy, people look for understanding and knowledge of the unknown. So librarians need to inform their communities through FAQs, an archive of media coverage to create an accurate memory of the event, and lots of opportunities for interaction between cultures, races, and ideas … help the community develop their own narrative … libraries did not close, and did not retreat. The libraries – no, the librarians did something and showed the world that Ferguson is not so different from Syracuse, or Seattle, or communities across the country…and that like those communities, they are more than the headlines. They humanized a narrative … Continue to be the resource for your communities. Continue to demonstrate the values of librarianship: intellectual honesty, intellectual & physical safety; openness & transparency; and the importance of learning.”
  • Extending Services to the People Who Need Them Most – Beyond Access (Romania). “Public libraries can help governments meet eGovernment and digital agendas by extending their reach and providing services to those who need them most. For example, in Romania, the Ministry of Agriculture was having trouble reaching farmers who were eligible for agricultural subsidies. So Ministry experts trained more than 1,000 librarians and 151 municipal employees to use the online subsidy application system — and between 2011 and 2013, Romanian public libraries helped more than 90,000 farmers apply for subsidies with a total value of more than $155 million. Download the infographic to learn more from Ukraine, the Philippines, and Moldova.”

UK local news by authority

  • Barnet – The planned closure of the East Finchley Library – Maja Doodles. “I went to a Christmas fair with my family and found out that the council was planning on closing the East Finchley Library! I always loved going there because I used to go there to look at the Jacqueline Wilson books to see if there were any new ones, and I still do! This library is fantastic because it is open to the public. I was so angry at the council for wanting to close such a wonderful library, that I actually wrote a letter to them…..so here it is … ” 10 year old has started a petition too.
  • Birmingham – British Library confirms no approach over Library of Birmingham rescue bid – Birmingham Post. “The council said yesterday the British Library had shown an interest in using the Library of Birmingham as a regional centre but the former has now confirmed it has not been approached about the project. In a statement, it said: “The proposals mentioned in Birmingham City Council’s press statement are part of internal council discussions at this stage and the British Library has not been approached regarding these ideas. “The British Library already works closely in partnership with the Library of Birmingham through a range of projects, including its Business & IP Centre, and looks forward to continuing that close relationship.””
  • Birmingham – Birmingham Library cuts could leave ’empty shell’, campaigners warn – BBC. “A meeting attended by hundreds of people on Wednesday heard some library services would be “irreparably” damaged under the plans … “the building’s specialist archive and research staff would be lost, and collections would be “irreparably damaged”. “Without the staff…[the library] would just be an empty shell,”
  • Cardiff – City’s library cuts may save £1.4m today… but will end up costing a great deal more tomorrow – Wales Online. “Best of all, is the instantly relaxing atmosphere. No one shouts, no phones ring and you won’t have to listen while someone jabbers into their mobile phone – just let them try. Librarians, notorious for their stern demeanour, are obeyed as few other public servants are. Just watch the next time a toddler goes AWOL by the shelves. Super Nanny could learn a thing or two from your local librarian’s speedy silencing of even the most raucous two year old. And then there’s the people watching.”

“We all need to read more – and not just 140 character tweets.”

  •  Harrow – Lonely residents to become isolated should libraries close, councillor warns – Get West London. “Councillor Susan Hall, leader of the Conservative group, said: “I think the Bob Lawrence petitioners have done a fantastic job, not only in terms of getting signatures from local residents, but in making the case for protecting our libraries. “Libraries are a vital community resource for all sorts of reasons, and for a hugely broad spectrum of Harrow’s population, and our worry is that the people who rely on them the most will be left isolated if they close.”
  • Kent – Consultation on charitable trust for Kent libraries is launched – Reporter. “An extensive 12-week public consultation on KCC’s plans to modernise its libraries, registration and archives service by the creation of a charitable trust begins on Monday (January 12). The council is facing financial challenges which have led to a review of all its services. The trust concept is KCC’s preferred option for the libraries, to give the service more freedom and flexibility to grow and develop, generate additional income and seek additional grant funding not open to KCC.” … “Under the proposals KCC would remain accountable for the libraries, registration and archives service and would contract with the charitable trust to continue to provide the existing services to all Kent residents”
  • Kirklees – Visitors flock to libraries threatened with closure in Kirklees — see which get the most visitors – Huddersfield Daily Examiner. “Libraries threatened with closure in Kirklees have had nearly 750,000 visitors in just six months … Now new figures, obtained exclusively by the Examiner, reveal that the other 24 libraries potentially facing the axe had 749,680 visits between April and October 2014.”.  [NB. Huddersfield Library figures are showing a decrease in visitors and borrowing because it was closed for 4 weeks for refurbishment and installation of self-issue machines – Ed.]
  • North Yorkshire – Meetings arranged to discuss future of Ryedale’s under-threat libraries – Gazette and Herald. “Town mayor, Councillor Chris Dowie said the library has about 20 volunteers, but that between 60 to 80 would be needed in order for the library to stay open. She said: “I just think it is really short-sighted of the county council. It would be difficult for us to recruit that number of volunteers as people don’t want to volunteer for hours the same as another full time job. There is a huge support for libraries to stay open from everyone across the community.””
  • Nottinghamshire – Rosie Bartram: Libraries are a vital resource which should be run by the council – Nottingham Post. “The county council is looking to change the way libraries are run but Rosie Bartram, who works at Eastwood Library and is branch chair of Notts County Unison, says this isn’t the way forward” … “It might seem that libraries have been spared the worst of the cuts, in terms of closures, but in 2010 we lost the equivalent of 84.5 full-time staff members, then we lost around another 10, and there are around 16 employees currently at risk. Opening hours have been reduced, with some smaller libraries only open eight to ten hours a week; here at Eastwood we are now closed on Tuesday afternoons, Friday after 2, and Saturday afternoons.” … “Once the library service is gone, it’ll be gone forever. If the service goes to arms-length and things don’t work out we could see library closures with buildings being sold off. Some libraries were donated to the public by well-off philanthropists. They were never meant to be given away. The service belongs to the public, and it’s clear that they are not aware of the implications this move to arms-length could have.”
  • Slough – Library fines for youngsters in Slough scrapped – Slough Express. “Overdue library fines for youngsters in Slough have been scrapped. Slough Libraries is permanently cancelling overdue charges for children aged up to 13 and is celebrating the change with a new competition. It will give youngsters the chance to redesign the libraries membership cards with the winning design set to feature on each new card dished out.”
  • West Dunbartonshire – Balloch Library threatened with closure as part of budget cuts – Daily Record. “Plans to close Balloch Library would be “disastrous” for the community, according to a key representative. Murdoch Cameron, chairman of Balloch and Haldane Community Council, hit out after West Dunbartonshire Council earmarked the facility for closure as part of budget cuts. The measure would help save the local authority nearly £500,000, which would also involve it shutting another four libraries in Clydebank.”
  • Worcestershire – Council changes mobile library service – Kidderminster Shuttle. “Worcestershire County Council confirmed that changes to the service, as well as the Library Service at Home (LSAH), will see the mobile libraries based in Stourport, Malvern and Evesham scrapped and replaced with one vehicle to cover the entire county. ” … “The new mobile library vehicle will be fitted with wi-fi and has a meeting room space. It will service 20 routes with 267 stops taking in a total of 175 villages. ” see also Big mobile library cuts confirmed in Worcestershire as 38% of stops are deleted – Worcester News.
  • Yorkshire Music Library – “Fresh Horizons recognised the local and national significance of the collection and became committed to ensuring that it remained available to the public on a sustainable basis.  Fresh Horizons Ltd is a ‘not-for-profit’ community enterprise based in Deighton, Huddersfield.  They have experience of running local libraries and wanted to create more opportunities for local people, as well as raising the collection’s national profile and increasing the availability of the service.”