The main news this post is about a strange claim made in the Guardian, Mail and many more local papers that the number of libraries in England have gone up by 2% since 2010.  The claim appears to come from the Press Association press release linked to a DCMS report about decline in children’s use of libraries.  The suspicion is someone in a government department either made a simple error or worked out some way of adding up all the libraries in a way that has not occurred to anyone else ever, perhaps including those book collections you sometimes see in train stations and village halls.  Needless to say, the claim has roused some consternation amongst public librarians and campaigners: I’ve been able to use statistics from them (and my own pages) to prove with the official figures a decline in numbers. See below.  But, basically, we know, they know, everyone knows that the numbers have been declining – and funding has been going down precipitously more – and to claim otherwise is just plain silly. Let’s hope whoever is responsible (hi DCMS Libraries Section: can you check if you know?) is told to be a bit more careful in future.

Now on to a couple of nice things: Chris Riddell has given permission to reproduce his lovely cartoon about the importance of libraries, which is shown below and, also, Grace Kempster has kindly written a piece on the magic and grace of libraries for PLN. It’s lovely, rings a lot of bells for me and can be read here.



Drop in younger children visiting libraries

Children's Laureate makes the importance of libraries clear (reproduced with kind permission)

Children’s Laureate makes the importance of libraries clear (reproduced with kind permission)

  • Drop in younger children visiting libraries is worrying, says Chris Riddell – Guardian. “Children’s laureate gives hand-drawn response to figures revealing 26% decline in five- to 10-year-olds who had used library in the past seven days … Riddell, an author and illustrator, said: “A drop in younger children visiting libraries is of great concern. As children’s laureate, I am passionate about the role of libraries, both in schools and in the wider community. They are unique places where children can begin their journey as readers, as well as being creative hubs. “Some of my favourite events have taken place in libraries, and over the next two years I intend to visit as many libraries as I can.”

“Book Trust research shows that reading helps close the poverty gap and is actually more important for a child’s educational success than their family’s socio-economic status. Well-resourced libraries remain a gateway to equality of educational achievement and an affordable source of great pleasure. All children should have easy access to a library.”

  • Fears over literacy after it emerges fewer children are going to libraries with number visiting down by a quarter in five years – Mail. “The number of five-to ten-year-olds who had used a library in the previous seven days fell by a quarter, according to a survey by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. In 2010, 18.7 per cent of children had done so, compared to 13.8 per cent in 2014. The number who had made a trip to their library at some point over the previous 12 months had fallen from 76.4 per cent in 2010 to 67.7 per cent. There was a smaller drop in the number of five-to 15-year-olds who had used a library in the past week, down 6 per cent, and a 7 per cent fall in those who had done so at least once in the year. But the number of 11-to 15-year-olds who had visited a library in the previous week rose by 15 per cent. The fall in numbers comes despite an increase in the number of libraries. There are 3,450 libraries in England, according to the most recent figures from the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy – an increase of 2 per cent from 2010.
  • Fewer young children visiting libraries – Express and Star. [The claim of the number of libraries increasing also appeared in 30 other local papers – Ed.]
  • Taking Part 2014/15: Annual Child ReportDCMS.  Report shows decline in children using libraries but does not include any mention of library numbers.

A look at the statistics
CIPFA’s published statistics show that the number of static and mobile libraries in England decreased from 3,426 in March 2010 to 3,142 in March 2014 – a fall of 284. There are 434 libraries with some kind of substantial volunteer involvement according to CIPFA 2013/14 Actuals, included those run by volunteers, staffed by them or funded by them.

“Static Libraries March 2010 = 3041, March 2014 = 2908, Fall = 133. Mobile Libraries March 2010 = 385, March 2014 = 234, Fall = 151” CIPFA figures reported by Desmond Clarke on LIS-PUB-LIBS

These numbers are all as of March 2014. Public Libraries News records at least another 59 libraries having closed or being passed to volunteers since then with 320 put under threat in the same period. There’s also around another 345 volunteer libraries which have largely replaced (rather than being additional to) staffed public libraries to some extent or another. In addition to these simple changes in buildings, a look at the authority by authority pages on PLN also show cuts of 10 to 50% in funding in particular authorities. It is expected that similar cuts, with some projecting way over 50%, will be exacted on top of this by 2020.

In conclusion, to produce a press release that fails to mention budgetary cuts when trying to explain declines in library user is highly suspect, not least because other English speaking nations (Canada, USA, Australia and New Zealand) which have not experienced such cuts are not experience cuts in usage of such size and, indeed, some are reporting increases in use.


  • The Amazing Grace of Public Libraries (or aromatherapy for local living) – Public Libraries News. Grace Kempster OBE, Customer and Libraries Manager at Northamptonshire County Council [Correction: Grace took early retirement earlier this year and is now consulting – Ed.], on the magic of public libraries. “Very quietly, often too modestly, libraries are doing something ordinary and extra ordinary in everyday lives. They are there when it counts, open when you need them, a constant, letting be the shy child from the unkempt home who spends hours pouring over her dreams and escaping to different worlds.; offering a ready smile and a welcoming joke to someone who otherwise feels “left over/behind/out” – or just invisible and aged; and offering human warmth to the rusty voiced complainer – who has not spoken with another human these past seven days.”

“Libraries are cherished for the chance for change, the delicious prospect of difference and the dance of discovery. They ‘can be’ places to think, they ‘can be’ new worlds to dream in, they ‘can be’ respite for resilience from grim reality, they ‘can be’ places where the future is decided.”


  • Aarhus libraries – Powering Learning – Digital Watches Are A Pretty Neat Idea (Denmark). A look at the philosophy of Arhus Library which is very successful, including introducing a digital learning programme with local schools that has since become national. “Mash up library” idea of providing the space for other organisations.
  • Adventures in GLAM: From Specialist to Public Libraries – Lianza (New Zealand). “The idea of the GLAM sector is wonderful. I love the idea that galleries, libraries, archives and museums, all those amazing places to do so much to enrich our cultural lives, can be considered as one big spectrum. Yet moving around this spectrum can be an adventure and at times take some getting used to. I worked for several years in specialist military museum libraries in the UK and only fairly recently started working in public libraries. There’s a lot that’s the same – proving excellent customer service, knowing your collections and finding aids, finding solutions to problems etc. But there are many differences – specialist libraries, particularly those with a lot of historic material, are at the opposite end of the GLAM, and the library, spectrum to public libraries.”
  • How libraries can compete with Google and Amazon – Quartz (USA). “Visit the Central branch of New York City’s Queens Library at 12:55 pm on a Tuesday, and you’ll see about 100 people outside, waiting for the doors to open. At 1 pm they file in: Some settle in the comfy saucer chairs, while others rest in armchairs facing four TVs and open a newspaper. Splashes of blue and green interrupt white walls, and computer areas are separated by category: job information, adult learning center, and “young adult learning.” But the reach of the Queens Library extends beyond the walls of its 65 physical branches. Dotting the borough are thousands of New Yorkers logged into their own mini-libraries, using the library’s mobile app to do research for homework, or the WiFi hotspots they checked out to fill in the holes in broadband access at home, or accessing e-books on one of the libraries’ tablets they can take home.”
  • Kate Torney’s new challenge: why the state library matters for Victoria – Guardian (Australia). “Many were surprised at Kate Torney’s announcement that she was leaving her position as the head of news at the ABC, for the role of CEO of the State Library of Victoria. But whatever her reasons for the move, it would be a mistake to underestimate the importance of the library to Melburnians and also what an important job lies in wait for Torney. The State Library has an imposing facade not dissimilar to those of other great public libraries such as the New York public library. But as long as you pass the bag check test, it’s a place that feels as if it belongs to the people of the city.”

“Books and librarians were to make way for more wi-fi and “casual public spaces”, and there was mild uproar. Libraries – despite their sedate reputation – are changing, and that change may involve a fight. Torney will have plenty of interesting challenges ahead of her.”

  • Major Publishers Might Revise eBook Pricing for Libraries – Good E Reader (USA). “The Association of American Publishers has just released their annual data report and e-book sales are not doing that great. In the first three months of 2015 they have plummeted 7.5% from the same period last year. In all of 2014 e-books have more or less stabilize with only 3% growth from the year prior and this is forcing publishers to evaluate their policies on selling e-books to libraries. Libraries right now are at the mercy of publishers and these companies can charge whatever they want. The new Michael Connelly novel Burning Room costs $14.99 on Amazon, but  libraries are paying $106.00 per copy.  John Grisham’s Grey Mountain costs $15.99 for a retail edition, but costs libraries $85.00. Some publishers make libraries repurchase the title after 25 loans, while others have them expire after one year. There is little consistency with the pricing, but hopefully this will change.”
  • Sculptures of Kids Made From Books to Bring Librarians Back Into Libraries – Spoon and Tomago (Japan). “We carry our childhood books with us to adulthood: the morals, the lessons, the values. In fact, “books shape who we are” has become a commonplace saying. Such so that a new campaign in Japan to bring librarians back in to libraries interprets the saying literally.” … “The campaign, which was launched earlier this year by the YCBE (Yokohama City Board of Education), utilizes sculptures of children made entirely from books. It’s a literal representation of the notion that books shape who we are. The sculptures in various educational settings like classrooms and libraries and are accompanied by short phrases like “Read a book. See the world differently.””


  • Lighting The Way: Libraries and Wellbeing – PMLG. “Incorporating the 2015 National Mobilemeet. Friday and Saturday 9th and 10th October 2015.  Public libraries have a major role in health and wellbeing – for individuals, families and communities.  This Conference will explore the health, social and economic aspects of our contribution to a better and stronger society. The programme includes: Speakers: Brian Ashley (Director of Libraries, Arts Council for England) on The Health and Wellbeing Benefits of Public Libraries; Andy Cope, author and motivational speaker; Dr Paul Blantern from the Sieghart Task Force; Chris Garnsworthy on ‘Re-inventing Mobile and At Home Services’; Alan Medway on Staffordshire’s work with Public Health; Andy Wright discusses how to design a dementia-friendly library; Mike Brook on ‘A LIbraryFest for Mental Health’; and Carol Brooks on ‘Personal Resilience’.”

Local news by authority

  • Birmingham – Google offers boost to troubled Library of Birmingham – Birmingham Post. “Technology giant Google is launching a venture at the Library of Birmingham as plans gather pace to build a new future for the £188 million building. The Silicon Valley giant has chosen the landmark building as the first UK site for a groundbreaking initiative working with businesses called Google Digital Garages. Part of the library, which recently saw its hours slashed in council budget cuts, will be given up for a new area offering the digital training for the skills small and medium-sized businesses need to thrive. It will open its doors on Monday. Coun Penny Holbrook, Birmingham City Council’s cabinet member for skills, learning and culture, said Google’s arrival was a shot in the arm for the library after 100 staff were axed and opening hours cut.”
  • Brent – What will be in the New Willesden Library Centre? – James Powney’s Blog. “Unlike other Brent libraries, Willesden is promised to open from 9am on week days (the rest open from 10am)”… lists items like 66 public computers and 14 iPads. ” The library also has a cafe, which is one of the features that makes Wembley Library such a success.  “
  • Camden – Camden library campaigners celebrate small victory in fight against closures – Ham and High. “Libraries chief Cllr Abdul Hai this week admitted that not enough work has yet been done to research alternative cost-saving measures as Camden Council looks to make £800,000 worth of cuts to the libraries service to help plug a £70 million funding gap. The cabinet member for customers, communities and culture has now agreed to develop its ongoing research into alternatives to closures, after speaking to the leader of the campaign to save West Hampstead Library, Labour councillor Phil Rosenberg.”
  • Fife – Campaign launched to save Kinghorn library from closure – Fife Today. “Led by local councillor George Kay, the high awareness campaign aims to gain the support of the people of the town to challenge the proposal by Fife Cultural Trust to close the facility as part of an £800,000 money saving package.” … ““Questions asked by myself have shown that Kinghorn uses less than £20,000 a year to provide what should be seen as a necessity of life. The library is not just about books, but about jobs, about social interaction and about a healthy barometer of the life of the Kinghorn community.”
  • Poole – Axed mobile library to be used at school for next three years – Bournemouth Echo. “Concerns have been raised about Poole’s mobile library, which is to be taken off the road and used as a static library at a Wallisdown school. Residents in the area were among those left without any provision after the axing of the vehicle which will save Borough of Poole £50,000 a year.”. Library service manager says “”By placing the vehicle permanently at Talbot Primary School we will be able to save these costs, whilst at the same time providing a community library for residents in the Wallisdown area.”