It’s not every Budget that public libraries get mentioned but it happened this time. Over £7 million to help ensure all libraries get wifi plus another 57 libraries to be assisted by BT and Barclays.  This is stemming from the Sieghart Review and, fair play, it’s not the first of its recommendations to be enacted, which means that this review is that rarest of things: a report which is getting some results. This will not be enough for some, who are more than aware of the deep cuts that have affected libraries, but it is something. I like somethings … they’re so much better than nothings.

I went to the rather wonderful Arts in Libraries conference in St Helen’s today. Readers of my editorials will know that I am not certain about the positioning of public libraries in the Arts sphere: literacy and education currently look to be safer spheres but what is happening there (and in Blackpool, Lancashire and Manchester amongst others) sure is impressive.  Most impressive is that St Helens ascribes a good part of it’s trend-bucking rise in usage and issues to tapping in to the success of its Arts programme.  So it’s been a good couple of days for optimism. Shame about the drip drip of cuts below really but let’s hope that tap, at least, is turned off.



  • Libraries are “marketing channels” – that should be funded for recommending things.
  • Library of things – loaning of items people vote for, including cameras, sewing machines, board games, bike repair.
  • Use spare library space to offer to an artist as a residency – Idea from Arts in Libraries conference.

Wifi in libraries

2.290 WiFi in public libraries in England – The government will provide £7.4 million funding to support libraries in England to provide internet access and WiFi. (19) Budget 2015 p.100 

  • All libraries in England to get wi-fi funding – BookSeller. “Ciara Eastell, President, Society of Chief Librarians, said: “We are delighted that the 2015 Budget includes funding for wifi in public libraries. This is a priority, and SCL is committed to making sure libraries offer customers access to digital resources.  Over the coming months, SCL will work with a range of partners to realise the potential of this investment to develop innovative services and partnerships that support libraries’ contribution to skills development, creativity and enterprise in local communities.” Improving internet access and wi-fi availability was one of the key aims which William Sieghart identified in the Sieghart Report into public libraries last year.”

“Central government making available funding to enable local authorities to extend WiFi access was a key recommendation from the Independent Library Report. Local authorities are invited to bid for funding on a one-off basis, with priority consideration being given to those libraries without WiFi. Authorities can also bid for upgrades to their existing WiFi. All applicants will need to demonstrate value for money and increased efficiency. The bidding process will be administered by Arts Council England and details about the approach to be taken will be made available shortly… To complement this work BT and Barclays have teamed up to help deliver WiFi and hands on digital support at certain libraries and community centres in deprived areas across England. This innovative community programme will see WiFi provided to certain libraries and community centres across the country.” DCMS in email to Public Libraries News

“The Arts Council welcomes the announcement in the Budget of funding to ensure access to free wifi in every library in England. As well as improving the public library digital offer, this will open up new partnership opportunities for libraries in providing digital services from which their users will benefit. As the national development agency for libraries in England, the Arts Council is pleased to be using its expertise to manage the funding programme on behalf of DCMS.” Brian Ashley, Director of Libraries for Arts Council England in email to Public Libraries News.

  • BT and Barclays join up to increase digital inclusion with free Wi-fi in libraries – British Telecom. “BT and Barclays today announced that they have teamed up to provide free wi-fi and hands on digital support at libraries and community centres in deprived areas across England.  The innovative community programme will see Wi-fi provided to 57 libraries and 13 community centres across the country. A further 10 sites, including a care home, a charity home and a homeless centre will also be provided with free wi-fi. Further sites will be announced at a later date.  Barclays Digital Eagles, specially trained members of Barclays staff who provide free technology advice to customers and non-customers alike will work at the new Wi-fi sites to help local people build confidence and develop the skills they need to succeed in the digital world.”

BT and Barclays locations will include Aldeburgh, Ballymena, Bath and North East Somerset, Blackburn With Darwen, Bolton, Bradford, Bromley, Buckinghamshire, Bury, Cheshire, Coventry, Cumbria, Darlington, Devon, Durham, East Sussex, Falmouth, Gateshead, Gloucestershire, Hartlepool, Herefordshire, Huyton, Kent, Kingston Upon Hull, Leicester, Lincolnshire, Loftus, Market Hill Scunthorpe, Medway, Melton Mowbray, Middlesbrough, North East Lincolnshire, Oxfordshire, Pembroke Dock, Peterborough, Reading, Salford, Sefton, Sheffield, Slough, Southwark, Stanhope, Stockport, Sunderland, Swindon, Truro, Twickenham, Wakefield, Whitwick Coalville, Windsor & Maidenhead, Wokingham. From list provided by BT: it is unclear which ones are libraries and which ones are community centres.

UK national news

  • Arts in England ‘may be living on borrowed time’  – Guardian. “Arts Council England (ACE) was told to defend frontline services when it began its first wave of cuts. It did exactly this, spelling the end for many organisations that helped the arts sector to operate more smartly, both individually and collectively. It also meant ACE itself was left unrecognisable, ‎with a fraction of the staff and resources it had to act as a national development agency for the arts – now with a national leadership role for museums and libraries too. “

“32) Libraries: Funding reductions to local government has seen pressures on libraries. There are currently 4,145 libraries in the UK, down from 4,482 in 2009/10, according to Public Libraries News” Budget 2015: 50 cuts this Tory-led coalition have made – Daily Mirror

  • Reply from the Green Party – Leon’s Library Blog. “I’ve had a reply from Martin Dobson, Culture Spokesperson for the Green Party. Apparently the Green Party, while having many activists involved in library campaigns, don’t have an official policy on libraries. What surprised me though was Martin’s openness about the issue, which I found both refreshing and a very human response. Certainly in contrast to the the avoidance tactics of Chris Bryant and the obfuscation or downright misrepresentation of the Conservatives.”

International news

  • 7 Challenges for Librarians from SXSW – EveryLibrary (USA). “Because librarians are the most trusted recommenders in society, we should get paid for it. Or at least funded … Libraries are, fundamentally, a marketing channel. We drive sales and awareness every day based on our power to recommend. People buy because they first got exposure to the item at the library. We need to start building visibility with companies developing the things we accidentally sell for them. And we need to get funded for that fact. This channel needs to stay open.”
  • Carnegie position on enterprise – Carnegie UK Trust. One mention of libraries but an interesting look at their position on community enterprise etc.
  • Kansas City, Mo., teens rally to restore funding for public libraries – KSHB (USA). “More than 100 teenagers from across Kansas City traveled Wednesday to Jefferson City, Mo., for a rally to keep their public libraries open. The teens want Governor Jay Nixon to restore $6 million in funding for public libraries across the state. They plan to meet with legislators to explain the importance of libraries and rally on the steps of the capital. “
  • Library Of Things Launches On Saturday – Capital Public Radio (USA). “The range of things – other than books – that you can check out at Sacramento Public Libraries is expanding. This weekend the library system is launching its new Library of Things, intended to help push the library into the future.” … “The Library of Things also includes video games, GoPro cameras and sewing machines that you can check out with your library card and take home. There are some things you can check out at the library but you can’t take out. Things like a bike repair station and a 3-D scanner. Easterwood says they picked all these things based on the results of an online vote through the library’s website.” … ““There will be an agreement that people have to sign for some of the items, the more expensive ones,” says Easterwood. “And they’ll be expected to bring them back in the condition they found them, just as they would any other item.””

“even though e-books from the library are gaining in popularity, people still want to come to a physical location – traditional book checkouts are up by about three percent. And Sass says the Library of Things is an extension of new ways people are using the library.”

  • Rakuten to buy OverDrive for £275m – BookSeller. “Japanese e-commerce company Rakuten is to buy OverDrive, which provides an e-book library lending platform, for $410m (£275m) in cash. The move will help Rakuten to expand into “new market segments”. OverDrive is a distribution platform which supplies e-books, audiobooks, music and streaming video to 30,000 libraries, schools and retailers across the world.” … “The purchase of Kobo was phase one of Rakuten’s plan for e-books, enabling it to enter the e-book selling market with a device and an app. The purchase of OverDrive is phase two, giving Rakuten access to the e-book borrowing and sharing market with libraries and institutions, said a presentation by the company.”
  • “Shhh…” New Album by Dave Menzo – KickStarter (USA). “For my new album “Shhh…” I explored a very new and exciting concept. Every instrument that I played on this album was checked out from my local public library in Ann Arbor! They have a Music Tools collection that allows cardholders to check out drum machines, analog synthesizers, guitar pedals, vocal processors, microphones, percussion, and various other instruments! “.

Local news

  • Blackpool – The many flavours of Pi – Blackpool Raspberry Jam. Layton Library session includes programming bananas to play music. Seriously.
  • Brent – Fresh bid for community-run library in Sudbury – Kilburn Times. “Friends of Barham Library (FOBL) have submitted a bid to the Barham Park Committee Trust (BPCT), which manages the defunct Barham Library (BL), in Harrow Road, to takeover the vacant card room on the suit. As well as providing a community run library, the group proposes to supply computers, host arts and crafts, a tuck shop and a community and information centre.”
  • Caerphilly – Readers levitate to Caerphilly County libraries’ Harry Potter Book Night – Caerphilly Observer. “More than 650 young readers flew, levitated and took the night bus to their local library to celebrate Harry Potter Book Night.”
  • Cambridgeshire – Enterprise centre plans for Cambridge Central Library approved – Cambridge News. “Cambridgeshire County Council will partner with Kora to deliver the new project on the library’s third floor. The council and Kora will pay £300,000 each towards the project, with Kora paying the council an annual service charge. The other floors will be renovated as part of the project. The entire library faces closure for between one and three weeks, with the third floor shut for eight weeks. There were some protests about the loss of the existing cafe on the third floor, which will be replaced by a smaller coffee bar. This is the first time a council has partnered with a private company to deliver such an enterprise centre, which pledges to “provide cutting edge business and learning services”.”
  • Flintshire – Community libraries in Flintshire facing transformation – News North Wales. “The proposals could see libraries in Hawarden, Mancot and Queensferry moved to a new hub at Deeside Leisure Centre at a cost of £130,000. And the council said libraries in Saltney, Hope and Mynydd Isa are considered ‘unsustainable’. Cllr Helen Brown, Flintshire Council cabinet member for housing, denied the local authority is closing libraries at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday. She said: “This is not about closing libraries. This is about saving services the best we can for the people of Flintshire.”” … ““Deeside Leisure Centre could provide space to co-locate the libraries of Queensferry, Mancot and Hawarden. It is our hope and intention to enable users to have greater access at the leisure centre which has longer opening hours. “Libraries in Mynydd Isa, Saltney and Hope suffer from low footfall and are also not considered sustainable.””
  • Harrow – May 16 is a black day for libraries – Harrow Times / Letters. “Empty words and broken promises are what come to mind — 15,000 signed petitions, 140 posters from schoolchildren, an open letter with 31 community leaders as signatories, and more than 71 per cent of respondent in the Take Part consultation in favour of keeping libraries open — all pleading to keep four libraries from closing. … If Harrow’s Labour council was truly walking in step with residents and their views, then these four libraries would not be closing its doors to the community come May 16. “
  • Harrow – Meeting tonight to approve library closures – Harrow Times. “Councillors will be recommended to approve the closures of four libraries at a meeting this evening. Harrow Council’s cabinet will meet this evening to discuss its Library Strategy document after the approved budget included cuts of £500,000 to library services”
  • Hartlepool – Make your opinion count on the future of Hartlepool libraries – Hartlepool Mail. “since 2013 the Library Service budget has had to be reduced by almost 16 per cent but the savings have been achieved without any direct impact on library opening hours or the branch library network. But, the Library Service now has to find further savings from 2016 and these cannot be achieved without reviewing the whole service, including front-line operations.”. Consultation.
  • Herefordshire – I’m paying more and more for less and less – Hereford Times / Letters. “I look at recent council decisions and think ‘what exactly is our council for?’ My local library at Bromyard is never open when I call in and a number of villages are setting up libraries in adopted phone boxes. “
  • Leeds – The Leeds Library opens its doors – Yorkshire Evening Post. “The Leeds Library has been at its present home on Commercial Street for more than two centuries, yet there are people who have worked on this busy street for years who don’t know it’s here .. The programme revolves around the motif of a diamond and the idea of the library being a “hidden gem” in the city, and has been funded by Leeds Inspired, Arts Council Yorkshire and the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society. As part of the project the library, in collaboration with Leeds-based organisation Alchemy, has commissioned local artists, musicians and poets to come up with ways of celebrating the library.”

“Has Abergavenny in south Wales set a new record for library closures, scrapping a long-expected new £3.4m library before it has even been built?  A small area of land, earmarked for the much-needed new library, was kept by Monmouthshire county council when it sold the old livestock market site in 2010 to Morrisons to become a supermarket, which is yet to be built. The town currently has a pretty but tiny Carnegie library, which isn’t nearly big enough;  and the plan was for an “impressive” bespoke building, three times the size of the old one.  £3.4m spending was announced and architects made plans;  but five years on, and with more pressure on budgets, the council has belatedly realised that “rates, heating, lighting etc” for the larger building would cost an extra £60,000 a year, and a bigger service would need more staff.  The decision to build was officially rescinded in February. Options being considered include squeezing the library into the town hall, along with the local One Stop Shop and the local theatre trust;  or a proposal from the local library Friends group to take over a former department store. Campaigners fear that the £3.4m that is now not to be spent on the new building won’t be spent in Abergavenny or on libraries at all. There’s also a worry that the future looks shaky for the rest of the market site, after Morrisons revealed huge losses last week and announced plans to close 23 of its smaller stores.  The county was only paid half the £30m for the livestock market by Morrisons, with the remaining £15m only due once the store is built.” Monmouthshire – Library News – Private Eye Issue No. 1388, (p.30).

  • Northamptonshire – Kate Stretton celebrates 25 years at Towcester library – Northampton News. “Towcester Library has three landmarks taking place this year. The first is the old library at the Old Church of England School building is moving to The Forum in Moat Lane, where South Northamptonshire Council is building its new headquarters. The new library will open its doors to the public on April 9. Two days later, a human chain will be created from the old library to the new library as the last 40 books are passed by hand from the old library to the new library. And the third landmark concerns library manager, Kate Stretton who celebrates 25 years as a librarian in Towcester library. The former radiographer to paraphrase the words of a famous poet came to the library and never left.”
  • Northamptonshire – Northamptonshire libraries chosen to pilot projects to launch a Business and IP Centre service – Northampton News. “Northamptonshire libraries has been chosen as one of two pilot projects to launch a Business and IP Centre service to support new businesses. The county council has been awarded a share of £400,000 from the Department for Communities and Local Government and Arts Council England to introduce the service, which will offer help and advice to local entrepreneurs about copyright and protecting their ideas.
    This builds on the work of the Northamptonshire Enterprise Hubs, launched in 2012 to provide coaching, advice and access to office space and IT facilities in libraries for people interested in developing a business idea.”
  • Southampton – Audio: Huge support for libraries – Bitterne Park Info. “There was substantial support for the campaign to save threatened Southampton libraries on Wednesday lunchtime. Protesters assembled dressed in black at the Bargate before walking single file to the council offices carrying books, to greet councillors arriving for a full council meeting – at which it was revealed that there had been 6,300 responses to the recent consultation.”
  • Southampton – Campaigners protest against cuts to Southampton libraries – ITV. “Up to five in the city could be closed and 18 jobs could be at risk if community groups do not come forward to take over running them. The council would save around £300,000 a year if they shut. “
  • Southampton – Protesters marching to save Southampton libraries – Daily Echo. “Around 150 residents, from children to pensioners, representing numerous facilities walked through the city centre in dignified silent protest … They wore black and carried books, many with library protest themed handwritten titles like Wind in the Library, The Importance of Libraries, The Famous 5 Libraries, A Brief History of Libraries and A Tale of Two Libraries. Other carried placards which held messages like ‘let our libraries live’, ‘Save Cobbett’ and ‘Love our Libraries’.”