There is an image amongst some who care about public libraries that chief librarians are somehow selfish bureaucrats who care only for their own careers.  I regularly see and hear senior library staff being spoken of disparagingly and, as someone who sees a little of both sides, inside and outside of libraries I can both understand this viewpoint but at the same time fully understand and sympathise with the situation that senior library managers are in.  The problem, you see, is that the British electorate have voted for large cuts to public services.  They may never say that aloud but those who have voted for any of the three main political parties would understand that that came with the territory.  Those that argue that our voting system is broken and that the will of the public was somehow malformed due to the first past the post system have to bear in mind that that very same public voted against proportional representation.

So we have to live with democratically imposed reductions to budgets and it is the senior staff in each service, especially those as seen as more expendable like (sadly) libraries who have to somehow implement them. I know of, directly, two chiefs who have been privately in tears over what they have had to do.  They would not have been emotionally so affected if they were somehow callous self-seeking individuals. Don’t get me wrong, such nasty people do exist, especially those that spend their lives too much in meetings and not enough on the front line, but they are not, please to goodness, the majority and all should not be painted with the same brush of blame.

So, don’t shoot the messenger.  It’s the task of those who care for the sector to work out how best to retain and change it over the next five years being in mind that austerity is going to continue to be our travelling companion.  We need to look at ways to reduce costs, increase income and usage while at the same time maintaining the neutral welcoming free ethos of the public library. If that strikes you as a tough call then you, too, may have the beginnings of sympathy for the chief librarian.



  • The beautiful librarians are dead: academic librarians and the crisis in public libraries – Gwallter. “. Be active in your professional body, CILIP, side by side with public librarians; support them and give them aid. I say ‘with some hesitation’ for two reasons, because membership of CILIP is low among academic librarians, and because CILIP nationally can appear supine in the face of the extinction of library services. Nevertheless, CILIP does offer the structure and environment for local support … But what if, despite all attempts to save them, public libraries wither and die? Academic libraries may them be left as the only publicly-funded libraries in existence (I make a questionable assumption here that universities still belong to the public sector). In this case academic librarians, I suggest, may need to start thinking about more radical measures.”
  • Enterprising Libraries: A blueprint for delivering economic growth in UK cities – British Library. “city library staff, stakeholders and entrepreneurs from across the country gathered at the British Library to celebrate the launch of an independent economic impact study on the Enterprising Libraries project. The event saw Roly Keating, CEO of the British Library, Kanya King MBE, CEO and Founder of the MOBO Organisation, and Darren Henley OBE, Chief Executive of Arts Council England speak about the success of the project. Enterprising Libraries is a £1.3m partnership between the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), Arts Council England (ACE) and the British Library which has enabled 16 public libraries, including six Business & IP Centres, across the UK to provide free access to collections and face-to-face advice and guidance for entrepreneurs on how to start, protect and grow their own business.  As a result of the early success of the project, DCLG and ACE, pledged a further £400k to sustain the Business & IP Centre Network and bring on two new pilots over this financial year.”
  • Fresh £3bn Tory cuts spree sends libraries, leisure centres and elderly care for the chop – Mirror. “Leisure centres, bin collections and caring for the elderly in their homes could all be threatened if budgets are hit, the Local Government Association​ fears. It says ​authorities will need to slash 12% of costs in 2016-17 because of new cuts expected in the autumn.” …”Councils have faced 40% funding cuts since the Tories came to power in 2010.”
  • Get It Loud In Libraries with Frank Turner – Youtube. “This is the short documentary I have made for my final project with Frank Turner and Get It Loud In Libraries.” “trying to develop audiences that weren’t there”.
  • Reinventing Local Public Libraries – HRI Digital. “Carillion plc and the University of Sheffield aim to re-think local public libraries, identify the requirements of a Library Management System (LMS) capable of delivering the library of the future, and identify further opportunities for collaboration between Carillion and experts at the University of Sheffield.” … “Carillion is looking to transform and re-energise the concept of local public libraries, addressing the widely held beliefs that local public libraries are under-used, under threat and failing to remain relevant to the communities that they are intended to serve. Carillion’s mission is to re-think and re-invent local public libraries to make them relevant and self-sustaining.”


This US library made at least $400k from being sponsored by its users, including in wills. Image courtesy of Ian Stringer

  • NYC Public Libraries Get Largest Funding Increase Ever – HyperAllergic (USA). “In a deal on the fiscal year 2016 budget struck late Monday night, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito announced an extra $39 million for the city’s libraries. The additional funding will allow for a restoration of six-day service at all branches across the city’s three library systems (Brooklyn, New York, and Queens) and create some 500 new jobs, Library Journal reported.”

“Socrates is supposed to have said that a library is the delivery room for the birth of ideas: that is my personal vision for our library. I see it as a space that will get Harare reading and get people talking. With the hard work of my committee, the support of the people of Harare and the many friends we are gaining around the world, I am confident the day will come when I can walk to my office without having to hold my breath.”  Zimbabwe: The house that books built – Africa Report (Zimbabe) An old article but one worth re-reading.


  • Cambridgeshire – Plans for enterprise centre at Cambridge Central Library thrown out by “embarrassed” councillors – Cambridge News. “The fiercely contested plans were thrown out by the county council today less than a month after they were given the green light. But days after the decision was made it emerged that Roger Perrin – who had led the negotiations from Kora and billed himself as the company’s global managing director – was in fact banned from being a company director in the UK.” … “Officers maintained that the usual checks had been carried out as they usually only check-out companies rather than individuals involved. See also Cllr Steve Criswell Speech to Cambs CC on Cambridge Library, 26 June 2015 – Youtube. Conservative group angry and disappointed by how decision to provide Central Library space to private business company was reached and queries whether due diligence has been given.  Council therefore withdraws from agreement but will now see how to save money in other ways.
  • Carmarthenshire – Council leader backs merging library with police station in Cross Hands – Carmarthen Journal. “And while work is under way to make the police station building suitable for the new tenant, local residents could find a temporary base for library services at the back of Cross Hands Hall and Cinema as soon as the end of next month”
  • Cornwall – Doors locked at Falmouth library consultation meeting – West Briton. “Falmouth Town Council member Patricia Minson, for Falmouth Boslowick, attempted to attend a library consultation in Falmouth on April 29th but found the doors were locked. The meeting had been scheduled for a Wednesday, a day when Falmouth Library is normally closed. Councillor Minson was late to the meeting, and Cornwall Council has said that a member of staff waited by the door for half an hour to allow latecomers into the consultation”
  • Enfield – Enfield library restructuring approved despite opposition – Enfield Independent. “The council plans to keep all 17 libraries open, but will turn 11 of them into “community libraries” that will share premises with other services.”.  Mobile library service will end.
  • Falkirk – Falkirk’s library lovers to have a say – Falkirk Herald. “The plan is to deliver a service that is valued by the local community, meets customers expectations and still affordable for the Trust to deliver. Lesley O’Hare, culture and libraries manager, said: “The consultation is a ‘call to arms’ to staff, users and non-users to become involved. “It is an opportunity for debate and discussion and to generate ideas and suggestions that will help give direction to the way ahead for library services across Falkirk district and ensure the they are valued, relevant, well-used and sustainable.””
  • Gwynedd – Campaigners slam ‘fiasco’ of library consultation – Cambrian News. “A group of Criccieth councillors and community campaigners have slammed Gwynedd Council’s initial public consultation, which asks residents for their views on how to run library services.” … “Library campaigners say they have studied the consultation document and found several flaws, including a lack of relevant detail, no assessment o”f the negative effect closure would have on the Welsh language and a severe misrepresentation of the library’s running costs.” … ““Without that information, residents can only come to the conclusion that, at best, it was an arbitrary choice by the council or, at worst, an option based on prejudice against the smaller communities, such as Criccieth.””
  • Isle of Wight – Meet Miss Crocus: One of ten wonderful Mennyms created in Ryde – On the Wight. “Various people undertook to create ten life-size fabric people, who all have their own names and stories and relationships, and who are going to be seen around Ryde during Festival week”
  • Leicestershire – Brewery bids to run library – Hinckley Times. “Elliswood Brewery in Hinckley has put forward a proposal to run Burbage Library in Church Street.The library was facing the axe due to cost cutting measures by Leicestershire County Council which is attempting to claw back a £110 million budget shortfall by 2018. The council asked for community groups across the county to run libraries in January but no plan was put forward for Burbage at that time. The library currently opens on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays for a total of 14 hours. There had been rumours that the library would be replaced by a micro brewery which raised concerns for residents in retirement bungalows opposite. However, Councillor Richard Blunt, the county council’s lead member for libraries, said Elliswood Brewery had come forward with a bid to run the site as a library.”
  • St HelensCorrection to St Helens council plans for £23m cuts to services in next two years – Liverpool Echo.  Email from Sue Williamson, Head of Library Services points out Liverpool Echo story is inaccurate. “The presentation simply sought to explain the changing face of the council in the face of ongoing budget cuts from central government. Passing reference was made to libraries as an example of a statutory service provided by the council – and contrasted with a non-statutory provision – in this case the Councillor Improvement Fund. The reporter involved appears to have confused the two issues. At no stage in either the briefing or the cabinet meeting was the Library Service earmarked for any cuts whatsoever. In fact the cabinet was not voting on cuts at all – merely giving their approval to start the process of identifying options for the cabinet to consider. No decisions on any savings have been made at this stage. The Echo agreed to carry a full correction in today’s (26 June) edition.”
  • Staffordshire – Mobile library plans for Lichfield and Burntwood not set in stone, says councillor – Lichfield Live. Mobiles: “Staffordshire County Council will begin a consultation over the service on July 1. The proposals would see stops in Hammerwich, Burntwood, Chasetown, Streethay, Curborough, Weeford, Chase Terrace, Fazeley and a number of other areas in Lichfield axed completely.”