Paul Heron from Public Interest Lawyers has been in touch with regard to gaining national information on the failure of the DCMS to properly investigate and respond to cuts to public libraries.  The full details are below. Please respond if you can help.

Judicial Review challenge of Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s failure to investigate Sheffield library closures 

What we’re doing 

Public Interest Lawyers are acting on behalf of a client who lives in Sheffield, and is supported by Broomhill Library Action Group (‘BLAG’).  We are challenging the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (‘DCMS’) and their failure to conduct an inquiry into the changes of library services in Sheffield.

We have sought permission to make an application for judicial review. This is the first step of a judicial review claim, in which we have to show that we have an arguable case against the Secretary of State. If we are granted permission (which is not guaranteed) the matter will be heard at a full hearing in the High Court.


 As you will be aware library provision has changed dramatically across the country over recent years, with many Local Authorities making cuts to jobs and services. Some libraries have been shut and in others volunteers are expected to bridge the gaps.  The DCMS has a responsibility to oversee library provision across the country, and to ensure that Local Authorities satisfy statutory provision requirements.  We are aware of at least seven library campaigns who have asked the DCMS to hold an inquiry into the changes. Each of those requests have been refused. Indeed the Secretary of State has not conducted an inquiry since 2009 in the Wirral.

At this stage it would appear that the DCMS is either:-

  1. Not considering requests for inquiries properly or at all, or
  2. Has a ’blanket policy’ which has lead it to refusing to conduct inquiries, or
  3. It is not fulfilling the duty to superintend library provision

What can you do? 

We would like to hear from individuals or campaign groups who have contacted the DCMS, asking for them to consider an inquiry into local library services.  Did you request an inquiry but receive no response? If you received a response what did it say? This information will assist us in building up the bigger picture of the DCMS and their apparent refusal to engage in any inquiries into local library provision changes.

Please contact Emily or Paul if you think that you could help: Emily.mcfadden@publicinterestlawyers.co.uk or Paul.Heron@PublicInterestLawyers.co.uk or 0207 404 5889.



  • June… “time flies when you’re having fun” – Bookmark People. “Since our April post, we’ve been busy with some Travel Advice bookmarks, some reader development design work and more Healthwatch promotions…”
  • Libraries – how they can improve our digital literacy – CILIP. “I predict a library renaissance with a spirit as great as the one that inspired the Public Libraries act of 1850. … because libraries can provide a facility that is truly in demand at the moment. When the 2007 global financial crisis happened, industry and small businesses were hit hard, and eight long years of soul searching followed as a result. Lots of people were forced to find a different career with many ultimately deciding to carve a new line of work by creating a job for themselves. As a result, the UK’s start-up community has boomed.” … “We’re asking libraries up and down the country to organise a 1-2 hour coding workshop in the library during the week. Possible speakers might include a cooperative digital business based locally, or alternatively it would be possible to host an event which gives people access to one of the free online coding courses.”
  • The places where mobile phones should be banned – Express. “In future, library-users will no longer be expected to keep silent. They will be able to chat, not just to each other but to friends via their mobile phones. They will be able to play videos on their iPads. Also earmarked for removal is a bylaw which prevents users sleeping amid the books. In other words, Stoke’s libraries will cease to be serious places of study and will become yet another place for socialising. The only difference between a library and a café or common room will be that there will be an opportunity to pick up a book if you find yourself waiting for your friends and you can’t update your Facebook page because your smartphone battery has run-down. A s a child, I used to be in awe of my local library, in Canterbury.”
  • Reach your reading goals with Reading Ahead – Reading Agency (press release). “Reading Ahead is the gateway to these opportunities. This is the new name for the Six Book Challenge which, since 2008, has inspired less confident readers to develop an enjoyment of reading at the same time as improving their literacy skills.  More than 150,000 people aged 16 and above have registered for the programme to date through public libraries, adult learning, colleges, prisons and workplaces, with nearly 90% of survey respondents in 2014 saying they felt more confident about reading after taking part. Reading Ahead will also support young people working towards Grade C English GCSE, who are now required to stay in education and training until the age of 18.  It will also motivate learners of all ages on courses ranging from supported learning and ESOL to functional skills and childcare.  Reading Ahead will continue to challenge participants to pick six reads of their choice and record, rate and review them in order to get a certificate. Reading diaries, certificates and publicity material with a colourful design and a new call to action – “Choose six reads.  Challenge yourself to get Reading Ahead.” – can be ordered now from The Reading Agency’s shop so that participants can start the scheme from September onwards.
  • Wanted: the truth about volunteer-run libraries – Library Campaign (press release). “A few years ago, public libraries run by volunteers were almost unheard of. But more and more local authorities are turning to the idea. And more and more local people are taking them on as the only way to ‘save’ them. They are the single biggest change in decades to this much-valued public resource. Yet almost nothing is known about them.  How many are there? A possible estimate is 300* – but there are no official figures. Many more are in the pipeline, with more transfer plans expected. What kind of library service do they provide? Do they work at all? There has been almost no credible research on the subject. The Speak Up For Libraries Alliance says this is not good enough. With hundreds of libraries becoming ‘community-managed’ – with central  government encouragement –  it is high time to find out the truth, good or bad.

SUFL wants to hear from anyone with a view about these volunteer-led libraries in the UK, whether they are a volunteer, a library worker or a library user. * What works well and what doesn’t? * What are the challenges and considerations? * What is the impact on the library service and what do you see as the future? The information will be used to inform SUFL’s advocacy. A summary of the evidence will be published. All information received will be anonymised unless specific permission has been given to identify the contributor and the names of library or library service.


  • European Parliament committee adopts controversial pro-user copyright reform report – Ars Technica (EU). “As well as measures that would strengthen protection of authors in contract negotiations, the newly adopted report hopes to make it easier for libraries to lend e-books and to digitise their analogue collections, as well as for scientists to conduct text and data mining to extract new information from academic papers available online.”
  • What Google’s Algorithm Change Means for Library Websites – Public Libraries Online (Global/US). “On April 21, Google changed its algorithm to give preference to mobile-friendly sites on searches performed on mobile devices. This means that sites that aren’t designated as “mobile-friendly” by Google sink to the bottom in mobile search results while sites that do pass the test appear toward the top. Dubbed “Mobilegeddon” by the technology press, this indexing change struck fear into businesses and organizations that haven’t yet optimized their sites for mobile. But realistically, your library can weather Mobilegeddon if it has the right tools, knowledge, and planning in place.”

Local news by authority

  • Birmingham – Cheese-paring library cuts show a lack of ambition and are harming Birmingham – Chamberlain Files. “Slashing the opening hours and staffing levels at the Library of Birmingham suggests a city seriously lacking in ambition. The library should be prioritised, not cast adrift to wither on the vine, argues Chamberlain Files chief blogger Paul Dale. There is probably slightly more chance of hell freezing over than the leader of Birmingham council, Sir Albert Bore, admitting he made a serious strategic mistake when drastically reducing opening hours at the city’s new library.”

“Cities like Frankfurt and Zurich do not have grand civic libraries that open for only half a week, nor do other major European cities. Here in Birmingham on any day of the week it is possible to see scores of people queuing up to get into the library, waiting patiently for the doors to open at 11am as if they are in some shabby east European city circa 1974. On Sundays, visitors continue to arrive in significant numbers expecting the building to be open. Some are from abroad and have come to see the best of what Birmingham has to offer. They are sorely disappointed.”

  • Birmingham – Dear, Library of Birmingham – Birmingham Favourites. “The Library of Birmingham is a beautiful building, nonetheless, I had my doubts that it was going to be functional from the start …”.  A long list of suggestions for what the Library is doing well and what it can do better. “The days of libraries earning revenue from unpaid fines are gone – we can now renew books online or pop them into the external book deposit. There are plenty of other ways for the library to earn it’s living in order to retain its status as the must-see community building for all to access seven days a week.”
  • Bristol – Book lovers march in a campaign to save their library in Westbury-on-Trym – Bristol Post. “A rousing chorus of “Oh When the Books Go Marching In!” was the battle cry for campaigners fighting to keep their library at Westbury-on-Trym.” … “Hundreds of people both young and old marched around the village to demonstrate how well-used the library is and how passionately they feel about keeping it open.”
  • Dudley – Stage to be built in Kingswinford Library as part of Arts Council grant – Stourbridge News. “A section of Kingswinford Library will be transformed into a staged performance area after Dudley Council was given a share of a £15,000 pot. The four Black Country local authorities have been given a proportion of the funds by Arts Council England to spend on showcasing events for their ‘Books into Art’ project.” … “The library stage is currently being decorated by children and local groups with community artist Matt Lloyd under the theme The Secret Garden. “
  • Harrow – Libraries close their doors for the last time – Harrow Times. “Lights were switched off and the shutters drawn for the last time as four libraries across the borough closed at the weekend. Bob Lawrence, Hatch End, Rayners Lane and North Harrow libraries checked out their last books on Saturday, June 13 as they closed their doors for good. The libraries were forced to close after Harrow Council voted through a budget setting out a total of £83 million of cuts to be made over the coming years, including thousands of pounds worth of cuts to library services.”
  • Lincolnshire – Three children write to Michelle Obama about Lincolnshire Libraries – Save Lincolnshire Libraries. “The children, all from the same family in The Deepings, were inspired by Mrs Obama’s recent speech where she stated libraries and museums aren’t luxuries or ‘extras’ that can be passed over while money goes toward other goals like creating jobs or teaching children, and explained that “so often our libraries and museums are doing the critical work to help us achieve those goals in the first place.” The children felt Mrs Obama’s words made a great deal of sense, and they hope she can influence what is happening to their local library and libraries across Lincolnshire. The letters have now been posted to The White House, and the children are hoping to be able to report back soon with their replies.”
  • Milton Keynes – Library review to take place – Milton Keynes Citizen. “A review of libraries in Milton Keynes is taking place in a bid to save money over the next three years. Residents are being invited to give their views on the future of the service at a series of events in the borough’s nine libraries and hear some proposals.”
  • Sheffield – Local Voice for the Walkley Carnegie Building – 38 Degrees. “We want the sale of Walkley Carnegie Library Building to be put on hold until all options are considered. We are asking that: The people of Walkely have a say in the future of the building. The people of Sheffield retain the freehold of this historic building”

“We believe the sale of the building to a private company (Forum Cafe Bars Ltd) is being rushed without possible alternatives being considered. The local community has not been properly consulted and the sale process has been neither democratic nor transparent. The building was gifted by Carnegie to serve the people of Walkley. Once it is sold to a private company it will never again be a public resource – there is no going back. This community resource will be lost forever. “

  • Shropshire – Shropshire Council starting to offload its libraries – Shropshire Star. “Libraries in Craven Arms and Highley are no longer run by Shropshire Council, while plans are being drawn up to transfer libraries in Bishop’s Castle, Broseley, Shifnal and Church Stretton to community groups.” £670k cut over next two years, £500k cut last year. “The libraries in Craven Arms and Highley have already been transferred to community management – the former to South Shropshire Furniture Scheme, the latter to Halo Leisure within the Severn Centre.” … “Michael Lewis, library services manager for Shropshire Council, said that there were plans for the future of five further libraries. They include the transfer of Bishop’s Castle Library to Enterprise South West Shropshire, Broseley Library to Broseley Town Council, Shifnal Library to Shifnal Town Council,  Cleobury Mortimer Library to the Cleobury Country organisation and  Church Stretton Library to a new location and management at South Shropshire Academy.” … Community management wanted for “Albrighton, Bayston Hill, Gobowen, Ellesmere, Much Wenlock, Pontesbury, Shawbury and Wem”
  • Warrington – Livewire and council propose £16m neighbourhood hub for Warrington – Liverpool Echo. “A £16m neighbourhood hub to include sports and fitness facilities, library, cafe retail outlets and a heritage trail is being planned for Warrington. The project, which is subject to planning approval, is being put forward by Warrington Council and Livewire, a community interest company that operates the boroughs leisure facilities and libraries. If the go-ahead is secured, construction on the phased development will start later this year for phase 1 completion and opening in autumn 2016 on the existing Great Sankey Leisure Centre site.”