It’s been a great weekend.  Loads of people have used libraries, of all ages and backgrounds, finding in them what they need, regardless of their ability to pay.  By their presence, the buildings have contributed to local communities, provided equality in a world increasingly without it and been appreciated by hundreds of thousands.  Oh, and it’s also been National Libraries Day. There’s been a lot said (and great to see the Sunday Mirror printing an application form) about closures and cuts and anger but the main words that have sunk into my mind are sanctuary, celebration and love.  Those are not half bad words for any job. Be proud.


David Whitehouse on the importance of libraries

I’d heard that David Whitehouse had made a very good speech at a recent event about public libraries and, being I’ve arranged for one of his “little libraries” to be in my own authority, I jumped at the chance to have him repeat it here.  Enjoy.

“I’m not going to be able to tell you anything you don’t already know about libraries. I’m not going to be able to tell you anything you don’t already know about why they are important or why they need saving. I can only repeat what has been said before, but that’s what must be done. Repeat, repeat, repeat until it’s heard. They need saving.

I’ve written a novel called Mobile Library, a kind of tragicomic road trip adventure set inside a mobile library like the one where my mother used to work. It was a giant old thing that travelled around Warwickshire, and it offered, both literally and figuratively, an escape to children like me in a poor town where there was nothing else, and no other way to escape. I hate to be the kind of idiot that quotes himself, but as it says in the book, “There were no windows but there were thousands of windows, in every book on every shelf”.

Every book I read in that library enriched me, broadened the horizons of my education, my imagination, and finally, me as a person. It was the garage I could go to, to tinker with my soul. It made me better. That mobile library now only exists in the book. And while of course there is no established links between its disappearance and the diminishing fortunes of the town and its children, I know that they are there. A library is unique, not for its books, but for the sanctuary it offers, a fact even more prescient now than it was back then. In a world where we’re looking at other people’s heavily edited holiday photos on Facebook on our mobile phones all day every day and getting depressed about it, libraries are sanctuary.

In a world where we can’t watch a thirty second clip of cat playing a piano without being bombarded by advertisements for things we don’t want, need or can afford, libraries are sanctuary. In a world where better educations are available only to those who can pay for them, where those lucky people have better prospects, better choices and ultimately better lives because of where they were born or who they born to, libraries are sanctuary.

I’m delighted that, because of my novel, Picador and The Reading Agency have conspired to create lots of little libraries which are going to be in librarian’s gardens around the country, because its important to remember that a library – and this notion of sanctuary – is not about the size of the building. More than anything, it’s a symbol. An idea. And a little bit of hope that can live in something the size of a birdhouse.

Politicians try to win elections with their promises on education, and they should, because better education cuts crime, improves standards of living and betters the quality of the workforce. Libraries are where education – for everyone – lives, and yet these same politicians are not doing enough to save them. Why? Perhaps it’s because they aren’t the people that need them.”

UK national news

  • All Hail the Public Library User! #NLD15 – Stop the privatisation of public libraries. Some excellent quotes from library users about how they value libraries”: “The library has been my salvation.” … “The Library has provided a lifeline to me as one of the only free, warm, friendly and educational places where I have been able to take my daughter as a baby, a toddler and now as a nine year old attending the local Primary School.” … “my library has proved a joy and a sanctuary to me” … “Our library is at the heart of the community in this area and is widely used by all members of the population” … “The libraries are one of the most civilising service that … Council is responsible for running and must continue to be provided for the benefit of all in the constituency”
  • The devil is in the detail – Leon’s Library Blog, “Mr Bryant [Chris Bryant, Shadow Minister for Culture] did affirm that public libraries need leadership. If elected Mr Bryant will be in a position to provide such leadership – and let’s hope it’s a better than the misapplied ‘distributed leadership’ the Arts Council offers – however, we have been here before when Ed Vaizey was in opposition. Support for public libraries is an admirable thing but not if Mr Bryant is unable to articulate how he will differ from the current incumbent whose non-interventionist approach and slavish commitment to localism has been so disastrous for libraries.” … ” Mr Bryant supports volunteer run libraries in ‘some circumstances’.”
  • Go digital by all means, but don’t bring the venture capitalists in to do it  – Guardian / Digital Rights Management. “libraries are forced to carry DRM-locked ebooks by the publishers, even though these books leak huge amounts of sacrosanct patron data – location, reading habits and social relationships – to third parties”

“Galleries, museums, archives and libraries tell us who we are. Schools and hospitals tend our minds and bodies. They are not businesses. We are not shareholders. We have private archives, private schools, private healthcare, and private libraries. They cream off the easiest, most profitable, least onerous part of the public service remit.” Cory Doctorow

  • Government closes hundreds of libraries as number of visitors falls by millions – Sunday Mirror. “On National Libraries Day, Shadow Arts Minister Chris Bryant accused ministers of failing a statutory duty to “promote improvement” of the service. He said “Libraries are a vital part of social and cultural life.” A report for the Government last December said libraries were facing a “critical moment”. The Mirror is backing the Voices for the Library campaign, supported by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy and authors Julia Donaldson and Kate Mosse.”
  • How to become a … head librarian – Guardian / Society Professionals. Ciara Eastell, boss of Devon libraries and president of the Society of Chief Librarians on her job. ” It is a time to rethink the role of libraries in local communities and explore new solutions to sustaining libraries. So often the media stereotype is of an old-fashioned service that’s in decline, but the reality is that libraries are providing much needed help that stretches beyond their traditional role as “street corner universities”

“At a time of significant financial austerity, it is essential that a head of libraries can powerfully articulate what a library can offer its community and demonstrate how the service aligns with broader council priorities, such as reducing loneliness, increasing economic growth or helping communities become more dementia-friendly. It is also becoming more important for heads of library services to be entrepreneurial, rooting out funding in addition to core council funding.” Ciara Eastell

  • Labour leader Ed Miliband faces the electorate in Stroud – Stroud Life. Ed Miliband says the current government “just don’t get it about libraries and children’s centre and meals on wheels and how important these are to people’s lives.”
  • Libraries belong to us, by author Cathy Cassidy for National Libraries Day – National Libaries Day. “Over 300 libraries have closed in the UK in the last four years; hundreds more have been passed out of council control and into the hands of private ‘partners’ or community volunteers. With promises that the next round of austerity cuts will be harsher still, things are not looking good for libraries”

“Yes, the cost of running public libraries is high – but the cost of losing them is higher still. Closing local libraries can devastate a community, and the poorest areas are the hardest hit; it slams shut the doors on learning, imagination, and aspiration, taking away what can be the one safe place for people to meet and find support to build a better future. Libraries belong to us, and we must not stand by silently and allow them to be closed – once lost, they will never be re-opened. Let’s value culture, creativity and opportunity for all; let’s speak out and let both government and local councils know how strongly we feel … Let’s not teach our children that Britain values its shopping malls more than it values learning, culture and imagination; we can make libraries a hot topic in the run up to the election, work together to try to change things. Libraries matter; let’s stand up for them.” Cathy Cassidy

  • A message from the founder of National Libraries Day – Alan Gibbons. “Four years after I called for a National Libraries Day, an event that is now an annual celebration, I fear for their future.”.  Points to decline in use … During my years of campaigning to save our libraries, I have debated with MPs, councillors and the Culture Secretary. I have yet to hear a single comment from any of these people to reassure me that the service is safe in their hands. So let’s celebrate National Libraries Day, but we will have to fight for them if it is to mean anything.”
  • National digital library network gets £30k funding – BookSeller. “A project to create a national digital network for all public libraries in England has begun, with a £30,000 grant from Arts Council England. The creation of a unified digital platform for library resources, including book catalogues and IT training, was one of the recommendations of the Sieghart report into public libraries. The Society of Chief Librarians (SCL), which is leading the project, has appointed Canadian firm BiblioCommons to begin research in the project, with the first phase expected to be completed at the end of March.”

“By adding in another software layer – indeed effectively another LMS – Bibliocommons are able to more easily develop new products that integrate directly with their own software – like the recent award winning “Making the Invisible Visible” project (http://www.knightfoundation.org/grants/201450225/) – one rather reminiscent of Almere’s “Serendipity Machine” (http://serendipitymachine.com/nieuwebieb/) . Rather than replacing an existing solution this approach  would, at first sight, appear to require additional investment and a degree of co-operation, and possibly development effort, on the part of other LMS suppliers in order to succeed. It will be interesting to see how this scenario develops.” Mick Fortune on Lis-Pub-libs

  • Number of library visitors falls by 40 million in four years as austerity measures force closures – Independent. “According to research by the House of Commons library commissioned by the Labour Party, 282m visits were paid to libraries in England in 2013-14, compared with 322m four years earlier … Last night, the shadow Arts Minister Chris Bryant accused the Government of “utterly failing” library users and said library closures had “accelerated rapidly” since the election … He said Labour would provide “genuine national leadership” in reversing the decline in library use, encourage greater cooperation between England’s 151 library authorities and give councils longer-term funding settlements so they can plan ahead better”
  • SCL working to Create Unified Digital Platform for all Libraries – Society of Chief Librarians. “The Society of Chief Librarians (SCL) has begun work to envision a unified digital platform for all public libraries in England. This new digital platform for public libraries will improve how library customers can access, understand, and use the information and resources that libraries provide, including book catalogues, digital resources, IT training, events calendars, and library locations and opening hours. This web platform will help bring new users into public libraries, both virtually and physically, and enrich the library experience for existing customers.”
  • Travels in my Tardis – Arts Council England. Brian Ashley, Director of Libraries blogs for National Libraries Day: “Back in the day when I was cutting my teeth in Warwickshire Libraries, we used to say that our aim should be to provide what each library user came in for. But also to go further and encourage them to find something they may not have been expecting, and so leave with a smile on their face” … “We all have a time when it helps to have someone there to navigate the digital nooks and crannies, to understand what is reliable and where the wild things are. We need to know that they are there for us; without them we would be lost, wasting time and money. Last Friday I walked out of the library with what I wanted, and more, and I had a smile on my face.”

“Like the Tardis … the library is bigger on the inside and it can take you through time and space to anything in any library, anywhere in the world. In the days before the internet, that was more obviously mind-blowing. I still remember the astonishment in the voice of a library user, who found that what she’d asked for, had arrived from Japan – the only place in the world that had a copy.” Brian Ashley

  • We want to hear your voices for libraries – Voices for the Library. “We know that those who use the service understand why this statutory service must be protected. We want to hear from all of those who use their local library every day, from those who benefit from the services they provide, from those whose lives have been changed because libraries offered them something that would otherwise be out of reach. This website aims to highlight all your stories, providing evidence of the continued importance of the library service to so many in our communities. We want to hear from you. If you’ve got a story to tell, if you want to share your experiences of public libraries or tell the world how your public library inspires you, drop us a line!  Our contact details are available here, we look forward to hearing from you!”


  • Fire in major Russian library destroys 1m historic documents – Guardian. “The blaze, which began on Friday and was still not completely out on Saturday evening, ravaged 2,000 square metres (21,500 sq ft) of the Institute of Scientific Information on Social Sciences (Inion) in Moscow, which was created in 1918 and holds 10m documents, some of which date back to the 16th century. Vladimir Fortov, the president of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said: “It’s a major loss for science. This is the largest collection of its kind in the world, probably equivalent to the [US] Library of Congress.”

UK news by local authority

  • Birmingham – Look: Library of Birmingham supporters give building big hug in rally against cuts – Birmingham Mail. “Supporters of the Library of Birmingham gave the building a big hug as part of a rally against proposed cuts to opening hours and staff. … The protest on Saturday was designed to coincide with National Libraries Day and included speeches from historian Professor Carl Chinn, photographer Vanley Burke and crime writer Judith Cutler … Campaigners linked arms around the library to embrace the building in a “hug”, before presenting councillors with a petition of 2000 signatures calling for cuts to be reversed.”
  • Bromley – Bromley Council put the freehold for Chislehurst Library up for sale – News Shopper. “The future location of Chislehurst Library is uncertain after Bromley Council put the freehold up for sale. The council is inviting developers who are interested in acquiring the site – including car park – in Red Hill. The announcement comes amidst the council’s reduction of £300,000 in the 2014/15 budget for the library service. A replacement for Chislehurst library would need to be provided by developers to the council’s standards.”
  • Cardiff – Artists draw up support for stricken Cardiff libraries – Wales Online. “Whitchurch artists Chris Griffin, Anthony Evans and Huw Aaron have joined forces to produce these pictures as a way of showing their protest against plans to remove funding from their local library”
  • Cardiff – Hundreds at Cardiff library cuts and closure protest – BBC. “About 400 people have gathered in Cardiff to oppose council plans to cut funding for libraries. Local writers joined the rally outside Central Library against the possible closure of seven libraries in the city. People held placards and banners calling for them to be saved, while dozens held books in the air and read stories out loud in unison. The council has said it needs to save £48.3m in 2015/16 and a final decision will be made on 26 February.”
  • Cardiff – Hundreds gather in protest at library cuts in Cardiff – Wales Online. “Those who made addresses to the crowd included leading figures from the world of literature – among them the first National Poet of Wales Gwyneth Lewis, crime novelist Belinda Bauer, former head of Academi/Literaure Wales Peter Finch, children’s author Jackie Morris, playwright Greg Cullen, novelist Francesca Rhydderch and poet and musician Labi Siffre.”

““When I go to the library on Saturday it is the best sort of Saturday. A Saturday that I love. “I go to the place I love. I see the things I love. I can go and get lost in books. I can leave the troubles of my life and I can enter a world that is full of imagination.” 12 year old Phoebe Howard


“I know the council has been put in this position by the current government but I wouldn’t submit to this bullying if I was a councillor. I would rather produce an illegal budget and go to jail because it’s the only stand one could make.” Joanne Harris

Milton Keynes - New library at Kingston: It's a bit colourful.

It’s a bit colourful.

  • Milton Keynes – New Library Opens in Milton Keynes – Demco.  The new Kingston Library (above) has opened. “Helen Bowlt, Library Customer Service Manager, said:  “The provision of a new building has enabled us to create a bespoke facility which meets the requirements of the local communities as detailed in the Libraries Audience Development Plan.  It is a significant improvement on the existing facility in terms of size and quality of the space provided with over seven times the floor area of the old library.  Milton Keynes has always courted controversy and although we have been quite radical in some of our ideas for the new space we have created a sustainable, cost neutral, enhanced library destination.  We carried out a lot of pre-project consultation and judging by the crowds outside the door on the open day we are confident that this is going to be a very popular destination for this very forward thinking town.”
  • North Yorkshire – Support grows in Harrogate for Starbeck Library campaign – Harrogate Advertiser. “The Harrogate Advertiser Series is backing a Starbeck campaign asking the county council to continue supporting the local library. At present there are two paid members of staff and about 30 volunteers working at Starbeck Library, and costs are met by NYCC. Proposals put before the public in November 2014 would pull this support to make Starbeck Library, along with 19 others, ‘community managed’, with no members of staff and reliant on volunteers and partners coming forward to run it.”
  • Northamptonshire – Library bosses in Northamptonshire reject criticism of public donation scheme – Northampton Chronicle. “The move was criticised by the leader of the Labour, Councillor John McGhee, Labour councillor Danielle Stone and the author, Alan Moore, as an indication that the service was underfunded. The Chron ran a leader column praising the work of library staff but highlighting that the public was increasingly being asked to pay twice to maintain the same level of services. The council has hit back saying the scheme did not demonstrate a cut to the service that it was “another example of the constant work in the county to make sure libraries are hubs at the very heart of our communities”.”

“Our LibraryPlus Trust is a response to the economic realities we face and securing more voluntary income for such a treasured service. It is a similar model to that pursued in such wonderful world renowned libraries as New York Public Library – surely no-one would suggest that is an affront to library services.”

  • Sheffield – Sheffield library looks to the future after huge change – Star. “Grandma Dot Russell, a former librarian at Stannington Library and now its manager, said: “A year ago I didn’t think I would be running this library, not in a month of Sundays.” … ““It is very much like it was in terms of atmosphere.. Obviously the staffing has changed, but I have to say the volunteers are very committed, they want to come in as much as they can” … “Trustees say at least two people join per week and local businesses are interested in holding events.”
  • Shropshire – Hundreds turn out to oppose Church Stretton library move – Shropshire Star. “During the meeting, held at the Silvester Horne Institute, Mr Lewis said the move could save £43,000 – and that he has to cut £1.3 million from the library budget across the county. A consultation is running on proposals to move the library from the town centre to Church Stretton Academy, half a mile outside the town. Professor John Whitelegg, from the Church Stretton Library Support Group, said: “This is not just a campaign to protect and preserve and enhance an incredible valuable public facility, it’s a campaign to protect and preserve and enhance Church Stretton.”
  • Southampton – Young people get say on libraries’ ‘future’ – Bitterne Park Info. “The council says school and library staff have been asked to publicise the new questionnaires, and to give young people the assistance they may need to fill them out, although they can also be completed from internet-connected homes. ” … “bitternepark.info understands from a freedom of information request that the cost for the council’s external suppliers to produce it, and then analyse and report on responses, is expected to be around £26,000″
  • Wirral – Wirral Council urged to rethink spending cuts after Government grant increase – Wirral Globe. “When other elements are factored in, it means there is now a further £1.5m of cash available for the coming financial year”. Lib Dem councillor suggests this would be a good time to save some libraries budget with the money. “There is an opportunity for the Labour administation to reconsider some of its more controversial saving decisions from September. “ I am thinking particularly about the decimation of the library opening hours. This windfall means that if they want they can take this decision off the table and safeguard the future of the community libraries.””