OK, I’m going to say it.  Sometimes, closing a library is the right thing to do.  It’s usage has fallen, the place is falling apart and no-one cares for the place, either staff or public. When the announcement is made, there’s no protest outside.  It’s a fair cop, the place closed.  I’ve been in libraries like that on occasion and it’s a depressing experience, best to sell the land and spend the money elsewhere.  Of course, these days far more than the defunct are being closed down.  You can tell this because, in place after place, people protest, march through town, take their council to court.  People don’t do this because they fancy a spot of light placard waving after Jeremy Kyle.  They do it because their library means that much to them. Those libraries should be saved.  But how on Earth is that done when money is so cut each year?

Sadly, in times of 50% “savings” (how I hate that word) to budget, heads of service need to make tough choices.  And they are tough, and would have been unimaginable in 2009. No boss enjoys cutting his or her budget, there’s no gleam of schadenfreude as the red line goes over the five least performing branches in their borough.  I know of senior staff, real decision makers, who have cried when doing this – no library chiefs are as devoid of humanity or intelligence, or as full of short-sighted selfishness as some suggest.  It’s horrible, and worse for the staff and communities most of all.  But in a time where the choice is either retrenchment into fewer branches or spreading budget so thinly that no-one wants to come into them that choice has to be made.  The third option of volunteer libraries also has to be considered, with all the problems and opportunities it entails, with its unfair postcode lottery and blackmail implications not least in my mind.

So I accept the need to close the occasional library through gritted teeth.  I’m a librarian, a library user and a lover of libraries.  But the reality that has to be faced with the governing ideology is of Austerity is that it is not just the failed defunct library that should be gone but libraries that are (or should be if funded enough) vibrant and teeming.  The over-riding cause of all of this misery is the historic decision to cut local councils by the biggest percentages seen in the last century or two.  Until that ideology dies, along with its allies of just plain disliking local services, loving private profit, and believing that such cuts will improve efficiency rather than ruining the neediest people’s lives, then that is what is going to continue to happen.  And it will happen, worse and worse, until something breaks so badly the whole thing is discredited. Or we live in the ultra-efficient world that Luke Johnson (ex owner of Borders, although strangely this is not mentioned much in his bio) suggests in the Sunday Times. When councils finally do run ultra-efficient multi-partnership behind-the-scenes economy of scale machines off their own bat. Perhaps that will happen. Or, instead or at the same time, the fact that people love libraries, depend on libraries and need libraries gets through to those – way above the level of library chief – in actual real power in Downing Street.  And that has most certainly not been David Cameron up until now.



Nothing Rotten about that quote. This work, "John Lydon National Libraries Day 2015", is a derivative of "John Lydon Mosaic by Ed Chapman" by dullhunk, used under CC BY 2.0. "John Lydon National Libraries Day 2015" is licensed under CC BY 2.0 by cilipmarketing.

Nothing Rotten about that quote. This work, “John Lydon National Libraries Day 2015”, is a derivative of “John Lydon Mosaic by Ed Chapman” by dullhunk, used under CC BY 2.0. “John Lydon National Libraries Day 2015” is licensed under CC BY 2.0 by cilipmarketing.

“Library professionals argue that libraries are in crisis because of spending cuts. That may be partly true but, overall, public libraries are not efficiently managed, and too often don’t meet modern needs. Perhaps half of England’s libraries have no wi-fi, and most have woeful websites. More than 70% of the entire national library budget goes on paying the salaries of administrators and librarians – while the pension payments absorb much more than the annual book and technologiy budgets.” … “”Meanwhile, there are 150 library authorities delivering the service across England alone – with few taking advantage of joint procurement, IT systems, streamlined administration and so on. Many are local fiefdoms – seemingly resistant to merger, collaboration or improved delivery models for political reasons.” He goes on to say that there are exceptions and he highlights that Suffolk has contracted out the provision of library servicesto a charity, retaining all 44 libraries while delivering significant savings, and that York has tendered its libraries to a mutual partly owned by its citizens.” Luke Johnson, private equity boss and Sieghart panel member, in the Sunday Times. (behind paywall) He was also the man who bought  Borders UK in 2007, saying he wanted “to build on its well-respected brands”. It closed in 2009 – Ed.]
“In his Sunday Times piece Mr J also discusses Education – stating that he “helped to create the family of academies ..”  and Health – where he dismisses our NHS as “a bureaucratic leviathan”.  Oh, how jolly, jolly good. Luke Johnson is chairman of ‘Risk Capital Partners’ and the ‘Centre for Entrepreneurs’ – by the way.  No doubt his views appeal to many who want to cut and cut.  Those to whom his views might appeal less, he describes as having “vested interests” such as “unions and left-wing politicians”. Since when are public libraries a business and why should they be subject to “market forces”?  They should not be.  Their intrinsic value goes far beyond that. ” Shirley Burnham via email.
  • Nicky Morgan announces ‘war on illiteracy and innumeracy’ – BBC. Education secretary advocates learning times table, protects Education budget, does not mention libraries. “The latest Pisa league table, which ranks the test results of 15-year-olds from 65 countries, puts the UK at 26th for maths and 23rd for reading.”
  • Our National Library Science Experiment Gets Underway – Common Libraries. “Well, what an exciting few weeks we’ve had here at Common Libraries! Our National Library Science Experiment is now well underway, with 35 library authorities taking part across England. We sent them five different Maker Instruction Sets ‘made for the library’ by users of the Waiting Room – each providing step-by-step instructions about how to carry out a creative project, guidance on lending them to the general public and related publicity materials. Over the next two months, each participating library will monitor interest from library users, including borrowing rates and general feedback. These libraries will also explore the extent to which local people wish to produce and publish maker instruction sets that reflect their own knowledge and know-how.”

“Each has identified a library which will soon host both Maker Instruction Sets (for lending) and full Maker Kits (for sale). These libraries will be supported by our team to promote them to library users during February and March – the aim: to assess demand for such items and any interest in the production of titles devised in their respective communities that could underpin the establishment of new Common Libraries. Each library service will also host a ‘Hack the Library Day’ during March, at which links between selected libraries and the producers and consumers of creative content can be explored, hands-on activities tried, and the profile of Common Libraries raised around the country.”

  • Prison ‘book ban’ rule relaxed – BBC. “It follows a High Court ruling in December that restricting prisoners’ access to books was unlawful. The restriction was part of a scheme limiting what prisoners could receive in parcels, in an effort to stop drugs getting into prisons. Books can now be sent to inmates via four retailers approved by the Prison Service.” … “Although inmates were still allowed to use prison libraries, critics claimed that the libraries are often inadequately stocked, and can be hard to access because there is not always staff available to take prisoners to them.”
  • Reasons to love your library for National Libraries Day – Alyson’s Welsh Libraries blog. Asked people why they love libraries: ““I like quiet, traditional places to work. I like storehouses of knowledge (i.e. libraries aren’t just for fiction). … I don’t like  mounted TV screens –  I go to get away from things like that.”
  • ‘Too many Welsh libraries closing’ warning – BBC. “Too many libraries are closing which will make it more difficult for people to “challenge those in power”, an ex-National Library for Wales chief says. Andrew Green, the former head of the Aberystwyth-based library, also said councils had a statutory duty to provide an efficient library service. It comes as figures released to BBC Wales’ Newyddion 9 programme show nearly 30 libraries in Wales closed over the past five years. About 14 others are at risk.”

“Libraries are extremely important for gaining knowledge about the world, about discovering things, about educating yourself and, in the end, challenging people in power.”



  • Suffolk – Opportunity & independence Suffolk, 27th March. “A one day conference looking at Suffolk Libraries’ independent community model, offering a way forward for library services.”

UK local news by local authority

  • Bromley – Last chance to have say on libraries – Bromley. “Library users can provide their views on proposals for Community Management at the six community libraries in the borough and market testing for the management of the core service. The consultation follows a review of the library service which includes these options to modernise the service and make improvements, while making savings and protecting the core service. For more information and to comment via the survey visit the website. “
  • Buckinghamshire – Buckinghamshire libraries aim to be ‘heart of communities’ – Get Bucks. Library chief says “… while many feel the future is in ebooks, he felt it was better placed in putting libraries at the centre of the community. He said: “People may not use them as much but they get upset if they hear it is being closed. There’s a real attachment to them.” Mr Jones added because of this they could be ‘hubs,’ changing how they are used and viewed.”
  • Cardiff – Hopes of a reprieve for under-threat Cardiff libraries fails by two votes as city councillors vote against motion – Wales Online. “Two separate motions have been tabled, one by Conservative councillor Craig Williams, and the second by the Independent group’s councillor Adrian Robson. One called on council to find an alternative saving to the planned £283,000 cut for the 2015/6 budget, both failed by a handful of votes”
  • Cardiff – Seven Cardiff libraries under threat in council cuts – BBC. “Cathays, Roath, Rhydypennau, Rumney, Radyr, Rhiwbina and Whitchurch are all under threat. Councillors rejected a motion which called for savings of £283,000 to be found elsewhere in the authority’s budget. A meeting on Thursday heard “huge numbers” were against the cuts.”
  • Coventry – ‘I have so much to thank the library for and the thought of losing it, staff losing their jobs, Bell Green becoming more and more deserted, is totally untenable’ – Coventry Telegraph / Letter.
  • Cumbria – New Barrow library opens – North West Evening Mail. “A bigger and better community library was officially opened to the public with the cutting of a ceremonial ribbon yesterday. It will be based in Ormsgill Nursery and Primary School, in Millbank, where all of the pupils have become library members. The move was the idea of County Councillor Bill McEwan who contributed £3,228 from his local revenue scheme funding towards the library’s refurbishment.”
  • Devon – Ambition to move Bideford Library into the Burton Art Gallery could be given the green light soon – North Devon Journal. “A joint ambition to move Bideford Library into the Burton Art Gallery could be given the green light in the next few months. The possible move was first announced at a Bideford Town Council meeting back in October 2013, and this month Devon County Council has started a feasibility study to look as the possible joint venture.”
  • Ealing – Story So Far – Acton Community Forum. “We are pleased to announce that we have secured Arts Council funding for ‘The Story So Far’ which will create an ‘arts & story trail’ from one end of Ealing to the other. Ealing’s cabinet member for leisure, libraries and customer services, Councillor Dr Patricia Walker said: “I’m delighted that the Arts Council has provided funding for this fantastic project which fuses art and stories throughout the borough; with the reborn Dominion Centre at one end of the trail and brand new Acton Library at the other.  Imaginative projects like this really add to Ealing’s arts and cultural strategy and play an important role in the regeneration of parts of the borough.””
  • Kent – National Libraries Day in Kent – Will Our Councillors Support Libraries? – CliKent. Letter sent to councillors informing them of National Libraries Day and asking for their libraries to support it.
  • Kirklees – In support of Malcolm Haigh – and our libraries – Dewsbury Reporter / Letter. “the crucial ingredient that makes Batley Library such an important focal point for the local community is the skill and expertise of its staff. To lose this skill and expertise in job cuts or moves to volunteering would be a major blow to the future well-being of local residents, particularly those who, for a variety of reasons, are the more disadvantaged in our society. In dark moments I can’t help but wonder if Kirklees Council’s determination to close or to dumb down library services in Batley and elsewhere is nothing but a surrender to the present Government’s general attack on publicly provided welfare services.”
  • Lambeth – Cultural services by 2020 – Lambeth Council. 5 out of 10 libraries may be closed/passed to volunteers: Carnegie, Minet, Waterloo Durning and Upper Norwood Joint withdrawal considered.
  • Lambeth – Lambeth Council proposes to sell Minet and Waterloo Libraries, and end funding for three others in the borough – Brixton Buzz. “Lambeth Council is planning to sell the Minet and Waterloo Libraries. Funding will also be stopped for the Durning, Carnegie and Upper Norwood Library. An expected £10m will be raised from the sale of the Minet and Waterloo. This would then be used to set up an endowment fund to help residents run community libraries. The Minet Library at Myatt’s Fields is home of the Lambeth Archives.” … “The announcement is far worse that we first thought”
  • Leicestershire – Groups express interest in running libraries – Loughborough Echo. “groups have registered an interest in running 29 of Leicestershire County Council’s 36 libraries – which were at threat of closure if volunteers were not found. Leicestershire County Council says it will continue to look at how it can encourage the remaining seven. Last year, it was decided that village libraries will have to be run entirely by volunteers or face closure.”
  • Lincolnshire – Audit report brought Tories to book over plans to shut libraries Lincolnshire Echo. “The long-running farce that is The Great Tory Library Betrayal took a disturbing twist this week, which should concern anyone who values democracy and accountability by those elected to serve us.” by opposition councillor.
  • Lincolnshire – Magna Carta and Lincolnshire Libraries – Labour Rose. ” The Magna Carta will arrive back soon to be housed in a new facility in Lincoln Castle which has cost £22 million. There will be many events held in the City to celebrate its anniversary. Yet while we honour this document of freedoms and human rights. Lincolnshire County Council has decided that it will not listen to the rights of the people of Lincolnshire in regard to their vital Library services. There is a connection between the Magna Carta and our Libraries. A Library represents freedoms, freedom to access free books, education and knowledge. Magna Carta and Libraries are intertwined in what they represent. Then why should Lincolnshire County Council on one hand celebrate the Magna Carta, and yes it should be celebrated, but on the other hand deny its people access to the freedoms that the Magna Carta represents?”
  • Lincolnshire – Save Lincolnshire Libraries campaigners fight their cause at scrutiny committee – Grantham Journal. “Among campaigners was Grantham county and district councillor Charmaine Morgan, who argued that the results of a public consultation “clearly showed overwhelming support to retain and improve existing library services”. She went on to say that the law clearly stated all residents are entitled to access library services and that the new proposals such as telephone orders and online orders did not deliver the same experience. Meanwhile, Coun Ray Wootten, also on behalf of the district and county, said that there had been a recent increase in the use of Grantham Library.”
  • Norfolk – Council papers – Norfolk Council. £80k cut 2015/16.  Results of public consultation including this showing 36% of respondents wanted more spent on libraries, the fourth most popular of 16 services, in front of Fire.
  • Peterborough – Peterborough arts chiefs put service fears to city council bosses – Peterborough Today. “He confirmed jobs losses at Peterborough’s libraries and indicated the city’s arts and heritage festivals could stop running. After a meeting with council officials early this week, he said: “We have always appreciated the difficult position the council is in with tough decisions to be made. “We strongly believe that libraries, heritage, the arts and sport are at the heart of what brings a city to life.”
  • Wirral – Council leader blasts ministers in row over Wirral library cuts – Wirral Globe. “The bust-up centres around Wirral West MP Esther McVey inviting secretary of state for culture, media and sport Sajid Javid to visit Upton library on Thursday. Employment minister Ms McVey later lashed the cut in library hours as “ill thought out” adding it would “disadvantage” the community. She said she would put pressure on the authority for a change of heart. Councillor Davies told the Globe: “Opening hours for the community libraries were reduced purely due to the scale of the cuts their Government has imposed on Wirral.”
  • Wolverhampton – Jobs to go and opening hours slashed in £100k cut to community centre budget – Express and Star. “”There was a great desire to have a quality community venue in Blakenhall and it has the area’s first ever library within it. “The council is in a difficult situation but the gym and library are popular. We live in hope.””