The withdrawal of 240,000 books from Manchester Central Library – and their selling to booksellers/recyclers – has again raised its head, three years after the original story.  For me, it illustrates the need for trust and open-ness. Librarians need to, when getting rid of a ton (especially many tons) of stock remember that the stock is not theirs.  It is owned by the council and thus the public.  Staff therefore need to be able to justify what is being cut in terms of a policy and, as (as a possibly pre-emptive step never before undertaken), actually let the public know they’re doing it.  Public libraries are the most open of buildings and staff rightly pride themselves on the skills that they have, but one of those should be being up front about what is happening to books.  It’s not, after all, waste or bad practice to get rid of books.  No library, except those desperate cases with no new stock coming in at all, can survive for long without weeding its stock. We should be proud of the process and explain why and how we’re doing it rather than – as is so often the case – hiding the fact.

Let me be clear, I have no reason to believe that Manchester did anything wrong in getting rid of stock – it had a policy, apparently only duplicates were got rid of, and everything else that I have seen about that building impresses the heck out of me – but the negative news coverage goes to show that public relations is very important.  Perhaps councils, because it’s a rare library service that actually controls its own PR, should be up front and say that each item costs money each year to store (I’ve recently seen the figure of £4 per item quoted) and now of all times we simply can’t afford to do that for all books, let alone ephemera and paperbacks published ten years ago. Being open about such things may inspire trust, and trust is exactly what we need to remember we hold the items in.

Using my time machine, I can confidently predict that Ed Vaizey will say that he will not be intervening in Sheffield when he produces his final decision on 27th February.  Oh OK, you got me, I don’t have a time machine … but who needs one to be able to predict what this most non-interventionist of ministers will decide?



  • At Least It’s a Desirable Job Somewhere – Library Journal / Annoyed Librarian. Poll finds librarian second most desired job: “It could be that people don’t know what these jobs really do, or it could be that the poll was slightly ridiculous” … “Given the current state of the public libraries there, I seriously doubt there will be much call to keep libraries open because lots of people would like to be librarians, although I have known librarians who seemed to think that employing librarians was the main purpose of libraries. The only purpose I can think of is to make some people feel better about themselves. If Librarian is the second-most desirable job in Britain, then the librarians there can think, “awww, people like me.””

“WITH vast swathes of the public library service closing down or being handed to volunteers, it is an odd time for the Society of Chief Librarians (SCL) and arts employment charity the Creative Society to launch a project “to attract more young people into the sector”.  SCL describes the initiative as a “TeachFirst” style internship, after the scheme designed to lure good graduates in “shortage subjects” into on-the-job teacher training in schools.

But there are few similarities between the two.  The money for the interns comes from Arts Council England’s Creative Employment Programme, subsidising 50 paid six-month internships for 16 to 24-year-olds who are on Jobseekers’ Allowance, working a 30-hour week to “develop new skills, improve confidence and self-motivation”.  With £2,500 available per intern, if library services stick to under-18s on the £3.79 per hour rate of minimum wage, they will get an extra pair of hands for very little money at all.

However, there’s a big difference between a librarian, with qualifications and research skills, and a person who works in a library — who these days is likely to be unpaid as well as unskilled.  In 2012, figures gathered by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals and presented to parliament, showed that out of 3,500 professionally qualified public librarians at the start of the 2011-12 financial year, 700 had been cut.” Private Eye (p.29) Issue No. 1386

  • Can we afford not to have libraries? – Library Stuff. “The aim of the campaign is to have all 11 years olds at a literacy level of 4b by the year 2025; it is an ambitious project but one that needs to be tackled and a paper is being produced ahead of the general election detailing what action is needed to address these four points. One thing I hope is recognised is the important role that professional librarians and libraries can play in this campaign. Librarians have skills and expertise that can feed into every single one of those four drivers; indeed many of us are already working in these areas from delivering rhyme times to babies in public libraries to promoting reading for pleasure across the school curriculum. To ignore this would be to waste a valuable and unique resource and, if we seriously want to address the issue of low literacy levels, then we should all be working together.”
  • Community libraries and trusts: a research-based report – Alyson’s Welsh Libraries Blog. “An independent research report has just been published which investigates the current situation of community libraries and two newly established library trusts in Wales. It was commissioned by the Welsh Government as part of the recommendations (#4 and #8) of the Expert Review of Public Libraries in Wales 2014 which was published in October 2014. The report, Independent trusts and community libraries in Wales (and which is also available in Welsh) by D Hywel E Roberts, considers the different types of community libraries currently in existence and identifies three main models: (A) community managed libraries run independently of the local authority; (B) community managed libraries benefiting from resource provision and staff support from the local authority; and (C) community managed libraries benefiting from resource provision, advice, training and paid staff in each library, direct from the local authority. “
  • Free Public Libraries: We’re all Victorians now – The Secret Life of God. “my great-great grandfather, Thomas Greenwood, was a leading figure in the Victorian public library movement. In the 1880s, despairing of the fact that fewer than 50 libraries had opened across England, he published an influential manual on how to set up and run a public library. The preface to ‘Free Public Libraries: Their Organisation, Uses, and Management’ argues that every community should have a public library because ‘Book hunger presents a demand as clear, as definite, as the cry for good drainage and good water’.” … ” access to knowledge and culture were essential for a member of a civilised society”

“Ironically, de-investment in libraries has involved a huge investment of time and energy from both sides. Yet the savings seem disproportionate to the costs – the recent, defeated proposal to close seven of Cardiff’s libraries would have saved only £283 000. A lot of money to you and me, but peanuts out of a total budget of £547 million. And what was the cost of all the meetings and documents that went into proposing cuts that won’t happen? “

  • In a country like Britain, obsessed with the now, libraries are a political battleground – Guardian / Comment is Free. Looks at outcry over withdrawal of 240,000 books at Manchester Central Library.  Looks at similar examples worldwide and says ” In each case, you sense the same basic outlines. The relevant authorities claim that space is inevitably limited, and outmoded guide books and old railway timetables can be safely thrown away – though what is binned usually goes much further.”.  Also raises concern that the moves are part of a general move towards ignoring the past and denigrating history.
  • Is the library dead? – Podium. “We put the question to you – is the library dead? Are the days of books numbered? “You don’t even have to read, it’s like a sanctuary for people.”
  • When it comes to film tie-ins do library users care what’s on the cover? – Nielsen. “In all cases with the exception of The Maze Runner, the original title was borrowed more often than the film tie-in. This is often seen in retail sales where original covers often out-sell their ‘stars on the cover’ editions, although in 2014 both The Maze Runner and the Divergent film editions outsold the original covers”


  • In Praise of Libraries – Rotarian (USA). “The public library is the only civic institution in my community that is uncompromisingly successful. Not everyone in my small town is crazy about the police force, and not everyone is all that pleased with the public schools. No one ever seems terribly happy with the planning board, the architectural review board, the board of trustees. Some people think the volunteer firemen get too much money for new equipment, though no one ever dares say it out loud. The public library is different. The public library is the community’s kindly grandmother: helpful, patient, understanding. Nobody in my town ever stands up and says he dislikes the public library. Nobody in your town does, either. Grumpy old librarians who keep shushing you, sure. But not the library itself.”
  • Local authority concern at library amalgamations – Irish Examiner (Eire). “Impact trade union, which represents local authority workers in the country’s libraries, has been running a campaign against the proposed library amalgamations which would bring the number of library services from 32 to 23.”
  • Public libraries tour – Public Libraries 2020 (EU). Three videos showing the importance of libraries in e.g. job-hunting.
  • Save Little Free Libraries from Uncultured Killjoys – Newsweek (USA). ” It’s a quiet way of building community and of sharing the pleasure of books with your neighbors. It’s simple. It’s something one person can do to make a difference”.

UK local news by authority

  • Barnet – Barnet’s Labour councillors put forward motion to halt library cuts – This is Local London. “Barnet’s Labour councillors have put forward a motion to be debated at the next full council meeting to halt plans to cut £2.85m from the borough’s libraries, and to re-consult residents on different options. “.  Opposition councillor say ““There are Conservative councillors who feel very strongly about their libraries, and we are giving them the opportunity to step back.”
  • Barnet – Email Barnet’s Conservative councillors to stop the library cuts – Barnet Labour. “Labour councillors are calling for an Extraordinary Council meeting to try and halt the £2.85 million of cuts to the Barnet Library Service on the 3rd March before the council makes the final decision on the next three year’s budget.”.  Suggested email wording.
  • Bedford – Important fight to keep up local services as spending reductions continue – Bedford Today. “One of these was the annual library survey by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, which revealed that 337 libraries have closed since 2009/10. By contrast, not only have all branches in Bedford Borough been kept open, but there has been no reduction in opening hours either. “
  • Bexley – Bexley Council seeks community management for libraries – Bexley Times. Council “seeking assistance to manage the libraries at Blackfen, Bostall, North Heath and Upper Belvedere. This follows a cabinet decision in December, approving the adoption of a new library strategy and plans for remodelling the service. The borough already has two successful community managed libraries in Bexley Village and Slade Green.”
  • Brent – Lib Dem candidate for Brent North pledges do donate half of his MP salary to community libraries – Brent and Kilburn Times. “Paul Lorber says he is pledging £25,000 a year for the full five-year Parliamentary term to help support a community library in Barham Park and at least a further £5,000 a year to help support a re-established community library in Preston. He said: “Local communities across Brent lost out when Labour Councillors decided to close six local libraries against the wishes of local people. Many local volunteers are determined to reopen as many of the closed libraries as possible and I fully support their efforts.” … “For the past three years he has been an active local volunteer helping to run Friends of Barham Library two volunteer libraries and bookshops in Wembley High Road and Sudbury Town Underground station”
  • Buckinghamshire – Police and tourist office share could overcrowd Marlow library, say residents – Bucks Free Press. “Setting up a temporary police desk in Marlow’s library alongside a tourist office could make it overcrowded and detract from its original purpose, residents have complained” … “”It’s going to be crowded. Does this mean less space for library services? Is it good to combine three public services in one building or not? Where will the police park?” ” … Facebook comment: “It’s not like we want to fill the library with books or anything! Bucks seems determined to ensure that Bucks libraries have fewer books (particularly fiction) than similar sized libraries in Oxon and Berkshire, so I suppose they might as well fill it up with council services instead.”
  • Cardiff – Library protest success as council cuts axed – Gair Rhydd.
  • Coventry – Every Coventry library to remain open for another year – Coventry Telegraph. “City council assures short-term future of all 17 sites, but says some are a “disgrace” and “not fit for purpose”” … “there is no guarantee that some of the 17 libraries won’t close over the next two to three years as the council shaves £65million from its budget following reduced Government funding … Ideas include retaining some libraries at their current sites but moving others into schools, religious buildings and even GP surgeries.”
  • Coventry – Labour council to deal ‘savage blow’ to Coventry – Socialist. “Just like everywhere else in austerity Britain, our Labour council’s plans will close libraries, community centres, children’s services, public toilets and more. These services are critical for people across the city and need to be firmly defended. Labour’s plans will also cause hundreds of job losses.”
  • Hull – Volunteers launch Victoria Dock community library service in Hull – Hull Daily Mail. Volunteer library opened after loss of mobile library stop.
  • Hertfordshire – International bestselling author Ken Follett speaks of need to protect libraries as council downsize Stevenage Old Town library – Hertfordshire Mercury. ““Nobody becomes a writer unless they are first a reader. “Access to a public library was important for me as a child, it was an essential part of my education.””
  • Kirklees – Kirklees budget 2015: Conservative proposals – Batley and Birstall News. “The Conservative Party’s budget proposals include a council tax freeze, saving Kirklees’ libraries and devolving more powers to district committees … The party said it could afford to save all Kirklees’ libraries by moving Huddersfield Library to a more cost-effective location in the town’s centre, cutting the budget for union officials paid for by the council and cutting mileage expenses available to council officers.”
  • Lincolnshire – ‘Good’ hearts not enough for libraries – Lincolnshire Echo / Letters. Raises worries over CRB checking and long-term future if branches turn volunteer. “A last point, and one which I brought up in the original consultations on this issue: in the reconstruction of Afghanistan over the past decade, 160 libraries were opened to educate and enlighten a developing nation.”
  • Lincolnshire – Is libraries move legal? – Guardian series. “The Government is investigating whether the county council’s bid to shove 30 of its 45 libraries into the hands of volunteers is legal. The move comes as leading national figures, author Tim Coates and The Library Campaign chairman Laura Swaffield, attacked the “disgraceful” and “pig-headed” step to dump libraries and sack 160 staff – when the council was shown it could keep them all open and still make its planned £1.9million saving.”
  • Lincolnshire – Plan to save Wainfleet library and historic building from closing – East Lindsey Target. “Lincolnshire Country Councillor Chris Pain has organised the meeting to help save Wainfleet library and museum, located within the Magdalen College School.”.  Council “negotiating a plan with Oxford Magdalen College and Savills to secure the premises for the benefit of the local community, whilst getting financial support from Lincolnshire County Council. He said: “It will still need volunteers …”
  • Lincolnshire – There was one (special) councillor at open day – Guardian series. “I would be grateful if, through your paper, I may correct a false impression given by the report on the open day at Deeping Library when I was quoted as saying that no county councillors were there. In fact, one certainly was; Phil Dilks, shadow executive member for libraries and councillor for Deeping St James was very much present, together with his family. “
  • Lincolnshire – We made the right decision – Market Rasen Mail. “although it is regrettable that some staff at Market Rasen have had a cut in hours, overall the library itself will remain open, with a loss of only two hours per week” … “The £2 million saved from a rationalisation of the library service will help insure that the youngest and the most elderly in a county of 720,000 people are looked after.”
  • Northamptonshire – Northamptonshire County Council outsources services and redeploys staff – BBC News / Northampton. “Councillors agreed to “efficiency savings” including spending £1m less on promoting the county’s economy, £7m less on waste management, £750,000 less on the fire service budget and saving £4m reviewing all looked after children in places outside the county. But cabinet member for finance, Bill Parker, said the budget protects “frontline and critical services” such as libraries and country parks. The Conservative-controlled council claimed work to implement the “Next Generation Model” would see it explore how services can become “separate stand-alone organisations free from statutory restraints”.” [The Council’s chief executive is Paul Blantern who is heading the national library taskforce – Ed.]
  • Manchester – Details on Manchester’s library stock cull – BookSeller. “The council’s criteria for stock editing says material considered for withdrawal had to meet certain conditions, such as that there was a later edition available, that it was “too badly damaged or has deteriorated too far to be of any further use to library staff and customers”, that its content is out of date, or that the “content of the material is no longer relevant to, or supportive of, the library’s collections or its stock policy”. The type of general reference material which was withdrawn included paperback editions where the library held a hardback copy, “coffee table” books, material now available as an electronic resource, and foreign language information material, the council told The Bookseller.”
  • Manchester – Manchester Central Library disposed of 240,000 items during refurbishment – Guardian. “A freedom of information request submitted by Friends of Manchester Central Library found that more than a third of the municipal library’s reference books and material had been removed when the building underwent a £170m restoration.” … “The campaign group called the cull “morally reprehensible”and accused the council of failing in its public duty. The council, however, justified its decision, arguing that it had used a strict set of criteria about reference material that would remain in the library’s collection.”

“Library staff do not own the books in their care. Library staff are custodians and public servants; for them to have quietly and systematically disposed of 240,000 publicly owned library books with no public notification or consultation whatsoever, is, we think, morally reprehensible.”


  • North Yorkshire – South Craven people thanked for response to library consultation – Keighley News. “More than 7,500 responses were received from across the county.” …  Council says “We know that our current group of community libraries has proved to be a resounding success. “Libraries are community assets and with the enormous financial pressures the county council is under, we hope we can work in partnership with our communities to maintain an effective and vibrant library service into the future.”
  • Northern Ireland – Library opening hours to be cut – Derry Journal. “The Board of Libraries NI says it has agreed “reluctantly” to review library opening hours in response to plans to cut £2.4 million from its budget. Irene Knox, chief executive of Libraries NI, said the draft budget called for savings of 7.5%.”
  • Nottinghamshire – Calls for book donors at Eastwood’s phonebox library – Eastwood Advertiser. “Amid worries that libraries are closing up and down the country, an anonymous librarians appear to have taken the initiative to lend books for free.”.  Library manager says ““This new approach complements the council’s long term modernisation strategy which includes recent investment at Stapleford Library. We have a very successful mobile library service which visits rural areas of the county, and we welcome any other initiative which can help promote reading. A spokesperson added: “While we have not yet been directly approached about donating library books to these “phonebox libraries” the county council would be happy to discuss if the issue arises with whoever has organised them.””
  • Oxfordshire – Phone box library closure threat angers residents – Guardian. “The phone box library in Banbury, Oxfordshire, was fitted with extra shelves and a regular supply of books for residents to share and enjoy, its supporters say. But on Tuesday BT posted a letter on the working phone box threatening to remove the shelves on 3 March due to concerns that they could fall and cause injury.”
  • Redbridge – No decision yet on library closures in Wanstead and Woodford – Guardian series. “Library services are under threat as the deputy leader of Redbridge council said he could not guarantee saving them from cuts .. One of the proposals was closing three small libraries as well as the mobile library services although no specific branches or centres are mentioned. Buildings could also be sold off as part of the process.”
  • Shropshire -Church Stretton traders join campaign against library move – Shropshire Star. “Traders said today that plans to relocate the library from Church Street out to Church Stretton School would impact everyone. They have added their voices to a campaign by the Church Stretton Library Support Group, which has been fighting proposals for the library to be taken over by the school in Shrewsbury Road, outside the town centre, while other council services move to Mayfair Community Centre in Easthope Road.”
  • Southampton – ‘We have to fight fiercely for libraries’ says Chris Packham – Bitterne Park Info. “TV presenter, naturalist and photographer Chris Packham, pictured above with a group of library users, gave a talk and showed his impressive wildlife photographs from around the world at Cobbett Road Library on Thursday (Feb 19). Speaking about the possible closure of Southampton libraries, Packham told a packed meeting room: “Caring is not enough. You’ve got to do something. And to do something in this instance is to turn up to that meeting [on Monday at the Ascension Centre] and make your voices heard.” Read more to hear a clip of Chris Packham talking about library closures – and what he thinks about the recurring idea of selling bits of the Southampton’s art collection.”
  • Staffordshire – No volunteers come forward to run Barton under Needwood Library as decision is reached on six others – Burton Mail. “Volunteers will manage the running of just six of 23 libraries under the control of Staffordshire County Council, after a decision on Wednesday.” … No one has volunteered for Barton under Needwood: “remains unclear what will happen if no volunteer groups come forward to staff it”
  • Staffordshire – Over half Staffs libraries to be volunteer-run – BookSeller. “The county council’s cabinet approved plans today (18th February) that will see only 20 of the county’s 43 libraries remain managed and staffed by the council, while the rest will be “supported and delivered by the community, with access to formal county council support.””
  • Staffordshire – Penkridge Library campaigners win their battle to keep council-run service – Staffordshire Newsletter. “Penkridge Library is set to continue to be managed and run by Staffordshire County Council after the council’s cabinet approved proposals today.” see also Stone library will still be managed by county council – A little bit of Stone.
  • Staffordshire – Staffordshire council leaders approve libraries plan – Sentinel. “Under the revised model, volunteers will now take a greater role in running 23 libraries, but will be supported by paid staff. Council leaders hope six facilities will soon be managed by volunteers as well, with the authority expected to start inviting formal expressions of interest from community groups in June.”
  • Swansea – Vital to consider future of our library – South Wales Evening Post. “It is a cliche of planning that libraries should be sited on main pedestrian routes with adequate vehicle access. If you would not put a shop or a large store on a site then it is not suitable for a library. If people cannot drop in without going out of their way, a site is unfit. Car parking nearby is essential and so is easy access for delivery vehicles and mobile libraries. It was therefore very surprising, indeed a matter for concern, when Central Library was moved to the Civic Centre where it had no more space than in the old building and was even less well-positioned in the city. It looked very much as if the move was made only because there happened to be some surplus floor area available.”
  • Thurrock – Russell Brand: Libraries are the lifeblood of Thurrock – Thurrock Gazette. “Because it’s a library, it’s sending out an important message, not just for learning, but for the community, to remind  them that many of the things important in life are not bought. It’s clearly a lesson we need reminding of.”
  • Trafford – Leaked document reveals scale of proposed library cuts – Messenger. “Its aim is to deliver a new organisational model by 2017, which will see this year alone, the closure of Bowfell, Davyhulme and Lostock Libraries and the withdrawal of funding for a toy library advisor from Delamere, slash the book fund by more than one third, employ free volunteer front counter staff, from charity Blu Sci, which helps support people with mental health issues.  It will see the removal of current library staff including team managers(4 posts), training and systems officers (one post) performance analyst (2 posts), toy library advisor (2 posts), customer service specialists (2 posts) and customer service advisor (11 posts), which will help save £618,600. “

“When we first took on these responsibilities we felt it would be another string to our bow but now the idea seems to be to use volunteers from the charity to staff the front counter and depend on unpaid volunteers to deal with the library books across the borough. “

  • Trafford – Librarian role eroded by years of under-funding claims former worker – Messenger. “during my time in the libraries, I witnessed the outrageous pressure put on the dedicated frontline library staff , some with more than 20 years services, who were forced to reapply for their own jobs.” Mr Evans, who previously worked as a professional for a multinational chemical company before taking early retirement, added that the move led to reductions in staffing and remaining staff were forced to take on the role of administering council services, including dealing with missed bin collection queries and housing benefit claims and giving advice to members of the public. He continued: “They got rid of the last degree level librarian in about 2004, and since then the remaining staff have just become glorified customer services representatives,”
  • Walsall – Libraries and children’s centres saved under alternative Walsall Council budget plans – Express and Star. “There would be fewer senior management posts and new town councils with their own cash pots formed, under rival proposals from the Liberal Democrats. They will be put forward for consideration at Full Council against the ruling Labour authority plans, which include the closure of eight libraries and loss of 12 children centres”
  • Wirral – Wirral library cuts campaign group set for further action after occupation of Seacombe library – Liverpool Echo. “Following the occupation, two members of Wirral SOS were invited to meet with council leader Cllr Phil Davies and Seacombe Cllr Adrian Jones to discuss the issue. But the group says that following a “disappointing” meeting on Wednesday, where three options they put forward to Cllr Davies to stave off the cut-backs were rejected, the council should now prepare for further occupations at other libraries. Dawn Grant, of Wirral SOS, said they had suggested deferring the reduced hours until after the general election, taking money from reserves or reducing councillors by a third as ways to offset the costs of retaining the current library hours.”
  • Worcestershire – ‘Taking on volunteers whilst axing 1,500 staff is immoral’ claims councillor – Bromsgrove Standard. Opposition councillor says ““It’s a topic that’s coming up repeatedly. The programme for replacing people, particularly in libraries, is one they are developing so there is not a lot we can expect to achieve. But we can point out the immorality of it. “They are going to staff facilities with volunteers. It is the only way the council reckons of keeping frontline facilities available and their alternative is to shut them down.”