So now we know: the Conservatives will not only be a partner in a coalition but, to the surprise of almost all, the holders of a parliamentary majority.  Most librarians I know are fairly depressed or shocked by this but we will need to at some point work out what this means for the sector and how we will respond it.  Here are my (completely uninformed and random) thoughts:

  • There will continue to be deep cuts to public library budgets, probably on the order of 20 to 50%, depending on local authority, over the term of this new parliament. This is similar to what has happened in the last parliament but will seem, if anything, to have more impact due to the service already having been cut. Councils will be desperate to save money any which way and so there will be as great as pressure as ever to put as many services as possible into council buildings – expect libraries to move into council offices, or vice versa, at an accelerated pace.
  • There’s going to be a lot of announcements of changes, for which read cuts, over the next year or so as councils push through decisions that have been delayed until the uncertainty of this election.
  • Volunteer libraries – which have been growing quickly in number but are rather unsupported and individual – will be increasingly assisted by local councils and, especially, national government.  This will take the form of best practice, guides and expert advice and perhaps central funding.  This will be necessary as more and more libraries (another 500? more?) are given the option of closing or having the paid staff removed.
  • The government will work at reducing the ease with which legal challenges can be made. This will reduce the power of local communities to challenge cuts to libraries in court and allow councils to reduce services with little regard to pressure, beyond concerns over adverse reactions at the next election.  This last will also not be a large feature as it is now clear that, when it comes down to it, insufficient people (both politicians and voters) care enough about public libraries for it to be an important electoral issue.
  • Those working in public libraries will be given the choice of adapting to the new conditions (more council orientated work, supporting volunteers, etc) or leaving (either pre-emptively or via voluntary, even compulsory, redundancy). Being that many qualified librarians have already gone, the next five years may effectively mean the end of professionally qualified librarians being a requirement in most authorities and may spell the end of qualified public librarians as a significant force, even if they are now. “Fighting” of course, as has already been pointed out on Twitter, is also an option and will continue, as it has in the old parliament, although with a weakened impact now that the Government has a majority, although this may change closer in the next two years or so due to by-elections or closer to the next election. This campaigning may divide the profession, as seen currently in Manchester, where the decision has been made to exclude some protesters from the library, which has resulted in some fairly negative comments from the Guardian and from Voices for the Library.
  • Whoever in central government is in charge of libraries (and it may well be Mr Vaizey again: we’ll soon find out even if it has not been announced by the time you read this) will be ideologically against intervention and will provide only limited, if at all, guidance to local authorities.  “Let a hundred localised flowers bloom” will be the order of the day, very much like it has been. It will be up to councils and others – notably the taskforce and the SCL – to do what they can.  It is likely that libraries will still remain under the Arts aegis (if Arts Council England survives) rather than in more politically important sectors like education.
  • Heaven knows what will happen in Scotland.  The nation already feels notably different to the rest of the UK.
  • If you’re in paid employment in a mobile library or a small library (and even in a larger one to a lesser extent – see the cull at the Library of Birmingham for example) then you’re going to be in constant doubt about your future for the next five years. One commentator has even done this amusing cartoon to suggest a possible (rather extreme but that’s the point of cartoons) future for mobiles…
Cartoon courtesy of @noHogarth

Cartoon courtesy of @noHogarth

But, frankly, none of us really knows what will happen even in broad strokes, let alone in detail.  What I have said above is simply a continuation of what has gone before and life is rarely like that. I hope that my prognostications are proved amusing wrong in the next few years.  There remains the obvious success of public libraries (as reported today in the USA and Singapore) in other countries, where usage is increasing and – with growing inequalities between rich and poor, those online and not online – libraries are needed as never before.  There are also – sometimes competing – trends such as for the need for quiet study spaces, for out-of-school literacy and for creative workspaces that may yet give ammunition for the sector.  The only thing that we do know is that the current boss will think much the same as the old boss, but without a putatively more centrist partner, and you are best to draw your own conclusions from that.


National news

  • If a library closes in the New Forest, does Vaizey make a sound? – Question Everything. “Tomorrow or over the next few weeks we may have a new minister responsible for libraries. Considering the three main parties are uninterested and have no real policies for the library service, very little is likely to change. What is important, is if and when the current post holder Vaizey leaves office, we make sure his legacy for hypocrisy and inaction sticks with his name. Much in the same way Beeching is linked to the destruction of the branch lines, Vaizey’s name must be linked to the destruction of the public library service.”
  • Vital services could disappear if Tories win the general election warns top union – Mirror. Unison reports that “Some 578 children’s centres, 467 libraries, 361 police stations, 300 youth centres, 33 fire stations and 10 museums have been forced to close their doors. The report says more than 15,000 police support staff, 5,000 library staff, 1,500 trading standards officers and 2,000 youth workers have been axed,casualties of the coalition’s ruthless cuts.”
  • Vote For Libraries – Leon’s Library Blog. “Everyone who cares about the survival of libraries: staff, campaigners, and users should think carefully when casting their vote. Give libraries a fighting chance of recovery by not electing those whose avowed aim is to continually shrink and undermine public services.”

International news

  • Indonesian horse that acts as a library – BBC (Indonesia). “In a region dotted by villages, Mr Sururi – and Luna – have become essential links between communities in recent months. In January, Mr Sururi started a mobile library called Kudapustaka – meaning ‘horse library’ in Indonesian. He travels between villages with books stored in boxes balanced on Luna’s back.”
  • Jazz Up Your Spring with Halifax Jazz Festival and Halifax Public Libraries – Halifax Jazz Festival (Canada). “Halifax Jazz Festival and Halifax Public Libraries celebrate spring with Jazz Up Your Spring a series of free JazzLabs  in area libraries throughout the month of May. JazzLabs offer a behind the scenes look at making music and include artist talks and interactive concerts”
  • Librarians versus the NSANation (USA). A look at the ways the US Government can look at private data and what public librarian can do about it in order to safeguard privacy.
  • Library of the future: 7 technologies we would love to see – Ebook Friendly (USA). Include digital Library bookmark and guide; Book delivery drone; Digital interface for print books; Library utensils; Mobile library center; Print on demand machines; Access to library via commonly used app.
  • Phillips Academy Head Argues Libraries More Important Than Ever In Digital Age – Radio Boston (USA). Libraries give neutral and free provision to space and to resources (online and physical), as a curator providing serendipity, libraries need to do more research on their online offer to compete with Amazon etc, libraries provide safeguarded and neutral curation of resources unlike private companies.

“The foot traffic going into libraries is not going down, it’s actually — in many places — going up…Often, by going online and being engaged in digital things and reading online, you actually read more physical books, in some cases. With kids, I think part of the reason that kids are such great library users is that they’re directed there. They’re often directed there as part of school…for many kids, if they are given an assignment where they have to go online to look something up or create something online and they don’t actually have good broadband at home, the place they go is the library”

  • Revamped libraries to open in next few years: Sim Ann – Channel NewsAsia (Singapore). “More libraries will be given facelifts in the next few years, and new libraries will also be built, said Minister of State (Communications and Information) Sim Ann on Tuesday (Mar 10) in Parliament. Among the new features the National Library Board is working on is the setting up of IDA Lab in Jurong Regional Library. Slated to open later this year, the lab will let users tinker with gadgets such as 3D printers and micro-controllers.” … “On Members of Parliament’s suggestions to introduce more themed libraries in the heartlands, Ms Sim said a dedicated “teen space” will be set up in Pasir Ris Public Library while the new Tampines Regional Library will be integrated with a culinary studio.”
  • Vancouver Public Library’s Inspiration Lab Just Made Learning Cool – Huffington Post (Canada). Library “opened its Inspiration Lab on Tuesday. Vancouverites now have free access to technology they can use to create movies, music, animation, e-books, and photos — and all you need is your library card. The downtown space offers 3,000 sq.-ft. of soundproof booths.”
  • Whole Person Librarianship – Public Libraries Online (USA). “Today, we’re living in what may become a golden age of library-social work collaboration, as libraries experiment with hosting and hiring social services staff, as well as novel methods for providing reference services that go beyond information provision” Looks at ways of encouraging such links. “As public libraries continue to move towards a future “beyond books,” our ability to provide nuanced and respectful services to all patrons becomes ever more important. We don’t need to be social workers in order to provide extended services – through collaboration, librarians, and social workers can learn from each other. Librarians’ expertise on information organization and access is just as important a help to social workers as their human-service expertise is to us”


  • I3 – 23-26 June at Robert Gordon University. “The conference will provide a forum for exchange of research findings and an opportunity to identify key questions and issues for future research. It should be relevant to those involved in researching, developing or delivering information and knowledge services in any sector as well as those concerned with the development of skills for a knowledge society.”
  • Youth Library Groups North West Unconference – 6th June at Manchester Central Library. “A great opportunity to visit Manchester’s greatest libraries while discussing and debating issues relating to library provision and reading for children and young people  “

Local news by authority

“We held a meeting yesterday along with the new developer of the library site which is what we have to call it now as the old library is to be demolished. The meeting was in the old building and was well attended by locals. We talked about the new development, which will include 187m2 of library/community space within a four storey building also containing 6 flats which will be sold. The main thing is that the building work will be completed within 9 months and we have to fundraise for fitting out the space, books, computers and a coffee point. The library has to be self-funding and volunteers will be key.” Brent – Update from Friends of Cricklewood Library (via email).

  • Cardiff – Cardiff’s central library to go digital with 3D printer – Wales Online. “It will bring a hub for council information and services, enhanced digital facilities including a digital lounge, a creative suite and a 3D printer as well as an area geared towards young people. The grant is part of a £2.7m investment by the Welsh Government in museums, archives and libraries across Wales.”
  • Gwynedd – Contract award : Public Consultation on Gwynedd Council’s Library and Information Service Strategy – Sell2Wales. “An invitation is extended to a consultative company with the expertise to undertake a Public Consultation on Gwynedd Council’s Library and Information Service Strategy.”.  Strategy won by SianShakespear. [via Ken Chad / LIS-PUB-LIBS]
  • Gwynedd – Library to get £250,000 boost – Cambrian News. “Porthmadog library is to receive a £250,000 funding boost in the latest round of Welsh Government grant funding. The funding will be used to modernise the library and deliver a more sustainable community hub with extended library opening hours. Porthmadog library is one of seven throughout Wales to share £1m to modernise their facilities.”
  • Hertfordshire – Inspiring libraries: developing outreach services – Hertfordshire Council. Increase in volunteers delivering books to houses and more online: entire mobile library service (seven mobile libraries) to be withdrawn. Petition against ending of mobiles here.
  • Lincolnshire – Government may face legal action over library cuts – Spalding and South Holland Voice. “Save Lincolnshire Libraries group has already announced it is looking a taking further legal action against Lincolnshire County Council, which plans to slash opening hours and close some libraries in a bid to save money.  But this week the group said it is now “considering its options” against the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, after it accepted a complaint by a campaigner but declined to launch an inquiry into the county council’s actions.”
  • Manchester – Manchester council bans homeless people from using library – Guardian. “Homeless people in Manchester have been banned from entering the city’s main public library or using the library toilets after they set up a protest camp outside. The city council said the ban came after protesters attempted to storm the central library and occupy the premises on Tuesday, distressing children and families. But protesters said they were being treated as “second-class citizens” and “members of the underclass” and accused Manchester city council of social cleansing.”
  • Manchester – Response to claims homeless people have been banned from Central Library – Manchester Council. “The Guardian newspaper’s claim that we are banning homeless people from entering Central Library is blatantly untrue. We have never enforced a general ban on homeless people from entering the library. Instead, we have been forced to ban members of the protest group which has camped outside on St Peter’s Square after they stormed the library on two occasions with the intention of occupying the building. These incidents, which came several weeks after similar scenes at Manchester Town Hall, caused great distress to children and families, as well as other library users, while members of staff were injured and two protesters arrested … We have also invited the protesters to engage with us as we create a new strategy for tackling homelessness, but disappointingly, they have told us they don’t want to do so.” see also Statement on Manchester City Council – Voices for the Library. “Voices for the Library are appalled by reports that Manchester City Council have banned homeless people from using the city’s main public library.” … “this is a very disturbing and destructive move by the Council and we urge them to end this vicious and discriminatory ban.”
  • North Yorkshire – Richmond tourist information centre moves into library – Times. “There have been several meetings to progress our vision for the building and its many assets during the past months,” she said. “In order to avoid re-inventing the wheel, as it were, we also invited County Councillor David Jeffels to our last meeting, to tell us how the people in his area of Great Ayton successfully created their own community hub.””
  • North Yorkshire – Thousands protest over library cuts – Darlington and Stockton Times. “Campaigners have made a last-ditch bid to save their library, handing over petition with more than 2,300 signatures to North Yorkshire County Council . Bedale library is one of 20 across the county that could be axed as the authority carries out the biggest review in the service’s history.” … “Susan Perkins, a member of Friends of Bedale Library, said they had been overwhelmed by the numbers of people wanting to sign the petition. “
  • North Yorkshire – Tourist information centre to get new home in town’s library – Darlington and Stockton Times. Richmond: “The town’s Tourist Information Centre (TIC) has been hit with problems in the last year after being unable to find a suitable premises – but town councillor Stuart Parsons came up with a plan to use the library, in Queen’s Road, as a new base. ” … “He said although some original volunteers from the TIC were joining the new team in the library, more assistance was always needed.”
  • Northamptonshire – A moat, a meadow and a multi use community building – Grimwood Associated (press release).  “The new community building, The Forum, at the heart of Towcester, Northamptonshire is now open and home to South Northants Council offices and Northamptonshire’s County Council’s Library Plus and Registrar (registration office for births, deaths, marriages and civil partnerships.  It will also be a hub for community groups, residents, visitors and tourists. The Forum is part of a wider regeneration project which is ideally located overlooking a beautiful rural location.”
  • Staffordshire – Bids open for groups to take on Barton Library – Burton Mail. “People will have the chance to put in applications to support the operation at the Dunstall Road site, after Staffordshire County Council decided it would no longer provide staff for the library. So far, there have been no expressions of interest from the community.”
  • Staffordshire – Community groups urged to submit bids to take over libraries – Sentinel. Numerous libraries offered to volunteers as alternative option to closing: bids open from May 11 to July 31.

“Haughton Green (in Denton) library is now run by volunteers but seems to be a community centre with some books, West End Library has closed. Mossley, Hyde and Denton Libraries have been moved out of purpose-built premises into much smaller accommodation in other public buildings. Hattersley Library has also been moved into another building, but in that case seems to have much better facilities.There are plans to move the remaining large town libraries (Ashton, Droyslden and Stalybridge) into other buildings in the future. Other closed libraries (Mottram and Audenshaw) have been replaced by library access points, one in Ryecroft Hall and one in Broadbottom Post Office.” Tameside – Report from local correspondent


“The community of Hale has presented a unique proposal to Trafford Council to save Hale Library and build a new, improved Library and Community Hub in the centre of the village. During the last few weeks, a consortium of Hale community groups, led by Hale Community Trust (a new charity with business powers), working collaboratively with Friends of Hale Library, Hale Civic Society and Forward Property Development, has entered into a partnership with Hillcrest Homes to put together a competitive bid that will meet the objectives of the Council and the community … The plan is to develop the Cottage bowling pavilion into a new two storey 6000 sq ft Library and Community Hub that will have the capacity to deliver state of the art library services, meeting rooms and community amenities while continuing to host the two bowling clubs and a small cafe. The Hale Community Trust has also offered to negotiate with the Council about community management of the Library on a co-produced basis. There will be sympathetic redevelopment of the existing library site to provide six semi-detached houses, two apartments, two small business units and adequate car parking for the development.” Trafford – Friends of Hale Library (via email)