It’s great to see that the British Library, amongst others, may be coming to the aid of the gigantic new Library of Birmingham. The BL are, it has been reported in the Birmingham Post, looking at putting a “regional centre” in there.  Whatever this may turn out to be (and such a thing would naturally cause a precedent for elsewhere in the UK) it’s hopefully going to be a good thing. For, the BL has always seemed a little, well, stand-offish to me in public library circles, especially for those of us in still what is occasionally called “the provinces”.  This has, though, recently been changing.  Their business and intellectual property centres scattered around the country, like this one in Newcastle, are in libraries and, although reluctantly, they are now in charge of the Public Lending Right Unit. It’s also interesting to note that their chief executive, Roly Keating, was amongst the panel for the recent Independent Report on Public libraries. I’ve seen what an impact having a state library concerned with strategy and supporting public libraries can have, after looking into the excellent work of the State Library of Queensland and it’s a shame there’s nothing like it here. Such a relationship of research, support and expertise can made a big impact but it’s almost completely lacking here.  In fact, for most public library staff, the British Library is known for only one thing – being an insanely expensive lender of last resort which mercilessly penalises lost books.  The BL could be of so much more use for public libraries, but if it is content for now merely to rescue the largest public library in the European Union then that’s a great start.




  • I had incorrectly listed the threatened Bob Lawrence Library as in Brent.  It is of course in Harrow.

UK national news

  • The Future of Libraries Has Little to Do with Books – Good. “Taking into account the proliferation of freelancing, the gig economy, and remote-working (also known as ‘technomadism’), the rise of library as community hub begins to make sense. Cities are increasingly attracting location-independent workers, and those workers need space and amenities that expensive and unreliable coffee shops simply can’t provide enough of.” … “A beautiful example of the important civic role libraries play took place during Ferguson’s recent upheaval, when the local and under-staffed library opened its doors and served as a community haven while most schools and businesses were shuttered. “
  • Policy costings: Battle of the nerds – BBC. “The Tories claim that Labour would cancel local authority cuts worth £3.3bn. As evidence, they cite fourteen quotes from Labour frontbenchers criticising cuts to libraries, social care, street lights, buses, and public loos.”


  • Miami-Dade libraries offering new tech classes with Knight support – Knight Foundation (USA). “Offering free technology programs in a public library setting is paramount to bridging the digital divide. The Miami-Dade Public Library System, through $25,000 in support from Knight Foundation, has ambitiously begun providing new quality technology programming to the public. The first of these programs, “Make It! Create an Android App” was recently offered at the Edison Center Branch Library. Spanning four weeks, participants gained hands-on experience in creating an application for Android-based mobile phones.”
  • Public wi-fi won’t lift poorest out of digital exclusion – charity boss – Cable. “Providing internet access in public places will not help the 20% of UK consumers who aren’t online, the head of a digital skills charity has said. Speaking to Cable.co.uk, Tinder Foundation chief executive Helen Milner applauded the rollout of wi-fi hotspots, but said people who need to access public services online should be able to do so from their own home.” … “The Tinder Foundation runs training sessions on how to use the internet in 5000 public libraries and community centres across the UK.”

Supporter’s news

  • Marcel Proust and the exploration of memory – Find out how Marcel Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time) brought a new vigour to the exploration of consciousness, sensation, and memory at the beginning of the 20th century with this sample chapter.  This chapter from Very Short Introductions online goes on to discuss the importance of the imagination in the work of André Breton, leader of the Surrealists.

UK local news by authority

  • Aberdeen – Aberdeen bucking national downward trend for library usage – Press and Journal. “A snapshot from April to June last year shows there were 298,633 “in person” visits to libraries, as opposed to online usage. That is nearly 40,000 more and more than 15% higher than the corresponding period in the previous year, 2013-14.”
  • Birmingham – British Library could offer lifeline to Library of Birmingham Birmingham Post. “A partnership deal could see Birmingham’s under-threat £188 million library become a regional centre for the London based British Library. Birmingham City Council is in talks with the national institution, as well as other potential backers, to offset a string of proposed cuts to services and staff.”
  • Brent – Campaigners announce plans to open children’s library in axed Barham branch – Brent and Kilburn Times. “The campaigners have placed a bid to take over an empty space within the site which was axed by Brent Council in 2011. They have already submitted a bid to reopen the axed branch in the building’s card room in the building after raising more than £25,000. FoBL, which was formed to fight the closure of Barham Library alongside five other branches in Brent, said the 30sq ft space previously used as the council’s parks department reception area has been vacant since workers moved out five years ago and is ideal as a reading room for young people.”
  • Cardiff – Write a ‘love letter’ to your library – author’s plea to help save capital city’s services – Wales Online. “People across Cardiff are being urged to write thousands of “love letters” to their libraries in a bid to prevent services across the city being axed. Children’s author and illustrator Jackie Morris has urged a mass campaign to protest against cuts to libraries including Cardiff Central. Taking inspiration from a campaign in Liverpool, where 11 of the city’s 18 libraries were saved thanks to love letters written by an army of writers, Ms Morris said the people of Cardiff must now follow suit. The campaigners depicted the planned closures as “a massacre” of services.”
  • Cumbria – “The Seven Stories” art project awarded £40,000 – ITV News. “Cumbria County Council secured grant funding from Arts Council of England lottery funding, to support “The Seven Stories”, a new project based at Carlisle and Penrith Libraries. The Seven Stories, 16 month arts project, will target hard-to-reach groups and local schools through a programme of art workshops, exhibitions and performances.”
  • Doncaster – Old Denaby library site sold off – Thorne and District Gazette. “A decision was taken by former mayor Peter Davies’s cabinet to close The Old Library in Church Road, Denaby, in 2011 to help meet wider Government-imposed funding cuts of £80 million. The facility was sold on behalf of the council for £90, 000 at auction at Leeds United’s Elland Road ground in December.”
  • Gateshead – Dave Anderson: Public libraries remain vital and we are closing too many – Journal. Labour MP for Blaydon says “The fate of our public libraries is a microcosm of the choice facing the country in May. The Conservatives, who are often bad at conserving the community assets that make us culturally rich, always seem to know the price of everything but the value of nothing. Labour has accepted the need to tackle the deficit but in a way that doesn’t bring the house down.”
  • Halton – Halton Borough Council Goes Live with New Reading List Service from PTFS Europe – Halton Libraries / LIS-PUB-LIBS. “We are delighted to announce that Halton Borough Council has just gone live with the new reading list service provided by PTFS Europe.  This service has been developed in conjunction with The Reading Agency and delivers the Reading Agency’s high quality reading lists seamlessly to your library web site. The service uses PTFS Europe’s Rebus:list reading list management system and includes the titles recommended by The Reading Agency’s Reading Programmes, such as Books on Prescription, Mood Boosting Books and the World Book Night lists.  It also delivers lists relating to The Reading Agency Promotions such as the Radio 2 Bookclub and the British Sports Awards. The service integrates with your library management system for up to date holdings and item status information.
  • Harrow – Harrow library closures: ‘We do not want to be in this position’ say council – Get West London. “With libraries under threat in Harrow, a council chief has pointed the finger at the Conservative-run government”
  • Harrow – Library campaigners get 2,500 signatures against closure – Harrow Times. “Farah Sadiq, who lives nearby and regularly uses the library with her three children, said she started the petition because she wanted to do something. She said:  “I’m not from around here originally, I grew up in Singapore, so I understand that this library is a social hub, it provides all sorts of different kinds of support to people.” … “Ms Sadiq said people cannot use nearby Burnt Oak Library, which is run by Barnet Council, as that is also under threat of closure, while Kingsbury Library, run by Brent Council, has access problems. ”  see also Library campaigners get 2,500 signatures against closure – Harrow Times. and also Save the Bob Lawrence Library: Petition calls for volunteers to save community facilities in Harrow – Get West London.
  • Hull – New council-owned leisure company in Hull ‘needs commercial edge’ – Hull Daily Mail. “the new not-for-profit company is expected to make the most of tax breaks not currently available to the council. However, an initial business case for the new company also envisages annual efficiency savings of about £180,000 a year”

“In this case, it does not have to be about job losses. “It should be about getting out there and becoming more competitive in the marketplace to increase earnings.”

“If we lose this library, how many kids who would have been a writer or an architect or an engineer or a doctor simply never will, because the inspiration of books – lots of them, at no cost – became a closed down building?” Ali Sparkes