I understand that as well as (a) keeping only one council library in all of Herefordshire, (b) hiving off a large part of the surviving one to other services and (c) closing that surviving library for an indefinite period due to asbestos, the good Conservative councillors of that county are also wanting to (d) cease supporting their Record Office (which opened at a cost of over £8m just this year), Museum and Archives over the next three years.  One hopes that the DCMS will have a quiet word and point out that cutting to just (part of) one library would either mean that the council itself would be legally challenged or that the DCMS itself would be open to challenge for not intervening, either of which would have to stand a very good chance of winning. However, I note with some ironic amusement that it was the Conservative MP for the very same area who was Chair of the DCMS Select Committee that gave the Secretary of State, John Whittingdale,  such a soft ride over libraries in the recent  hearing over his responsibilities. Mr Whittingdale probably laughed about it all the way back to his office, before dismembering the BBC distracted him once more.

The other story, as well as the normal disasters befalling libraries (notably the large numbers of staff lost in Hampshire), is the question of what to do about responses, like from the Kent councillor, to remove all the books produced by Rolf Harris. The arguments are that his crimes are heinous (they are) and that public lending right will mean he financially benefits from book loans (he does). This reminds me of similar mass withdrawals of biographies of Jimmy Saville and of Lance Armstrong. Unlike both of those, though, Rolf Harris did art books as well which presumably contained few outright lies about his life. It’s a tough one but I’m unsure about the precedent being set here if all his books are withdrawn.  Would we need to check who has been convicted every day and dispose of the books accordingly? It worries me that there’s no guidance I can spot on this and one wonders if library authorities are happily creating precedents as they go along.


National news

“Q104    Chair [Jesse Norman, MP for Hereford and South Herefordshire]: It is a pity to raise this now, given how important it is to many people, but could you just tell us what you will be doing to defend library provision as we head into the CSR? I am embarrassed to raise it late.

Mr Whittingdale: We have spent the entire session without mentioning libraries. Libraries are absolutely critical, but I understand that local authorities are already under pressure and I fear may be under greater pressure as a result of the spending review. But nevertheless, the importance of libraries to local communities I think is significant. What are we doing? There are specific areas where we have been able to give support, particularly, for instance, in Wi-Fi in public libraries, which we have financed and it is being rolled out. But the number of visitors to libraries is still substantial—they still play a very important part—but nevertheless there needs to be innovative thinking in order that they should continue in what are difficult financial times.

Q105    Chair: Your Department, would its job not be made significantly easier if there were slightly more generous and perhaps fairer local government settlement?

Mr Whittingdale: I suppose the answer to that is yes, as long as it is not at the expense of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport’s settlement. But no, obviously provision of libraries is the responsibility of local authorities, although there is the reserve power of the Secretary of State to ensure that there is a comprehensive library service made available. But in my own area, of course, I am aware of the pressure on local authorities, which is going to mean that they are going to be faced with tough decisions in just the same way that we are in the Department. But I would continue to stress to local authorities the value and importance of libraries.” Priorities of  the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, House of Commons 358: Wednesday 9 September 2015


  • Lack of digital library investment ‘pushing’ users away BookSeller. “A draft report commissioned by the Society of Chief Librarians (SCL) has said £20m should be invested in digital services over the next three years to prevent libraries from becoming “soup kitchens for the written word.” The report, entitled ‘Essential Digital Infrastructure for Public Libraries in England’ and conducted by Bibliocommons, a commercial provider of library software systems, says libraries are “pushing” users away by their lack of investment in digital technology. However, library campaigners including former Waterstones boss Tim Coates has criticised the draft report as “vexacious” for portraying libraries as “no longer being predominantly about books.””
  • Shush – BBC Radio Four. Comedy starring Rebecca Front and Morwenna Banks, with themes including library closures.  “Alice and Snoo have to resort to some rather unconventional means to get people into the library. A very low shelf, a book about zombies, a hosepipe ban and some hummingbirds bring the public flocking in. Meet Alice, a former child prodigy who won a place at Oxford aged 9, but because Daddy went too she never needed to have any friends. She’s scared of everything – everything that is, except libraries and Snoo, a slightly confused individual, with a have-a-go attitude to life, marriage, haircuts and reality. Snoo loves books, and fully intends to read one one day. And forever popping into the library is Dr. Cadogan, celebrity doctor to the stars and a man with his finger in every pie. Charming, indiscreet and quite possibly wanted by Interpol, if you want a discrete nip and tuck and then photos of it accidentally left on the photocopier, Dr Cadogan is your man. Their happy life is interrupted by the arrival of Simon Nielson, a man with a mission, a mission to close down inefficient libraries. Fortunately, he hates his mission. What he really wants to do is once, just once get even with his inexhaustible supply of high-achieving brothers.”
  • Trio of Scots writers back school library fight – Scotsman. “James Robertson, Christopher Brookmyre and Alan Bissett are backing a campaign to protect school libraries in Scotland. Campaigners say “postcode lottery” provision means pupils suffer educational inequality.” … “The Save Scotland’s School Libraries (SSSL) campaign group yesterday launched a petition to the Scottish Parliament, which will run until 16 October, urging the Scottish Government to set out a new national strategy for school libraries. Crime writers Ian Rankin, Peter May and Val McDermid were among the first to sign the petition.” … “Concerns have been raised over proposals to cut school library services in East Renfrewshire, South Lanarkshire, North Lanarkshire and Falkirk. Proposals already approved include sharing librarians between schools in Glasgow and replacing librarians in North Ayrshire, South Ayrshire and Fife with library assistants. ” see also Books are the key to education – Scotsman / Editorial.. “The school library – the heart of any educational establishment – should be protected at all costs, not cast aside as an opportunity for cost cutting.” and Save our libraries – Scotsman / Letters. “The Scottish Government’s strategy of automatic public library membership for all children, welcome though it is, is not going to overcome the disadvantages of reducing school library provision. This is particularly so in secondary schools where the role of the school library and librarian is to support pupil learning, not only by developing reading but also through the development of pupils’ abilities to find, evaluate and use information whether from books or from the internet – building blocks for life-long learning.”
  • When is a librarian not a librarian? – Leon’s Library Blog. “‘community library’ used simply to mean a library that was part of a particular community or denoted size/level to distinguish it from larger counterparts. Nowadays the phrase has become synonymous with a library that has been riven of paid staff and run by volunteers. After all ‘unsustainable book swap run by unpaid amatuers’ doesn’t quite have the same attractive ring as ‘community library’. So in best marketing style the term has been hijacked to mask the reality. Unfortunately, those that should be concerned with maintaining high standards of library provison: DCMS, ACE, SCL have all bought into this notion and readily propagate such disingenuous definition.” … “What the profession needs to be wary of and something that should be challenged is appointing candidates to post as ‘librarian’ or equivalent without qualification or the need to pursue one. Regardless of the rights or wrongs of volunteer libraries it is beholden on all of us in the profession to uphold the integrity of what it means to be a qualified librarian. “

International news

  • France – No Library For You: French Authorities Threatening To Close An App That Lets People Share Physical Books – TechDirt. “over in France, they really are taking the idea of attacking new forms of libraries to incredible new heights. There’s a French startup called Booxup that is taking the above personal lending library concept and making it digital. You get an account, scan your books, upload a list of those you’re willing to lend to others, and the service connects willing lenders with willing borrowers, putting books that would otherwise be collecting dust on shelves to good use actually being read and educating and entertaining the public. Neat.  Except… not so neat, according to French authorities who are claiming the whole thing could be illegal:
  • USA – Libraries are banding together in support of Tor – Verge. “In July, the Kilton Public Library in New Hampshire partnered with the Library Freedom Project (LFP), to become the first library in the country to run a server connecting to Tor, an online network that allows users to browse the internet anonymously. But in August, the Department of Homeland Security got in touch with local police, who contacted the library about shutting down its relay. The library complied, for a time. Then, on Monday night, groups like the EFF, the American Library Association and local Tor supporters appealed to the library’s board of trustees, and got them to reinstate the library’s Tor relay node. Now Kilton is planning an even more important — and riskier — role in the Tor network, and other libraries may follow suit.”
  • USA – The Seattle Public Library considers name change – Seattle PI. “The Seattle Public Library is taking public comments on a name change and a “rebranding” that seems hardly worth the effort. In a press release that went out Thursday, library officials discussed the rebranding as a serious undertaking that would reflect how differently the library serves people today from what it once did. “The Seattle Public Library is about books, but we are so much more,” said Marcellus Turner, city librarian. “An updated look and name will better reflect what our library system is today — active community hubs where residents learn, grow and gather throughout their live” … “The Seattle Public Library is considering changing its name to…Seattle Public Libraries. That’s it. Drop “the” and add an “s.””
  • USA – These Public Libraries Are for Snowshoes and Ukuleles – New York Times. “Libraries aren’t just for books, or even e-books, anymore. They are for checking out cake pans (North Haven, Conn.), snowshoes (Biddeford, Me.), telescopes and microscopes (Ann Arbor, Mich.), American Girl dolls (Lewiston, Me.), fishing rods (Grand Rapids, Minn.), Frisbees and Wiffle balls (Mesa, Ariz.) and mobile hot spot devices (New York and Chicago).”

Local news by authority

  • Buckinghamshire – Could Staff Own Bucks’ Libraries? – Mix 96. “A rethink about how Buckinghamshire’s libraries are run is happening, with half a million pounds needing to be saved. One idea is to let the staff own and run each one – something already happening in York, with the set-up meaning they can then generate income.”
  • Cornwall – Public consultation launched over future of Camborne Library – West Briton. “Cornwall Council is hoping town and parish councils will take on library services, so the local authority can “meet the required savings. It’s warned some libraries could face closure unless local councils agree to take them. Camborne town councillors are now asking residents if they would support the town council to take on the library, and how much they would be willing to pay in additional council tax to keep it open.”
  • Cumbria – Please keep using libraries – Westmorland Gazette / Letters. “after asking why the library may be found shutting early or the computers are ‘playing up’, I was told that the county council offered early retirement to library staff across the county and at the same time put a stop on new recruits. As a result the staff you see there now is all that there is available. So, when a staff member suddenly goes ill or goes on leave, there is not enough staff available, and so the library shuts early.
  • East Riding of Yorkshire – East Yorkshire library savings consultation to begin – BBC. “Its current budget for library services is £3.79m, the authority said. Council leader Stephen Parnaby said the consultation, starting on 29 September, would allow people to offer their ideas and views “to help develop a plan”. “We are launching a consultation process to allow people to give us their ideas as to whether this can be done and how we can best achieve a vibrant and sustainable library service which can best meet the needs of our customers,” he said.”
  • Fife – Crail campaigns to save library – Fife Today. “Local people are mounting their own campaign against controversial proposals by Fife Cultural Trust (FCT) to close libraries across the Kingdom, in the hope of making savings of around £813,000” … “, Crail Community Council believes children and elderly people would be the biggest casualties of a local closure. Member Eileen Wood said there was a petition in place online through the community council Facebook page, and all the local shops had copies, while signatures may also be collected door to door.”
  • Hampshire – Over 70 library staff take redundancy in Hampshire – BookSeller. “Libraries are among the biggest affected with 74 staff choosing to take redundancy. Most of these are frontline library assistant staff. The cut to the library wage bill is set to save the council £947,000.” … “A report, due to go before the authority’s leader Councillor Roy Perry on Monday (21st September), said there will be a one-off investment to develop “self-service opportunities in larger libraries”.” see also Seventy four library workers take redundancy as council looks to save millions – News.
  • Herefordshire – Libraries are essential service – Hereford Times. “Older members of the community have a chance to meet people and talk to a human being at libraries. All libraries do more than just lend books. Ross-on-Wye library is the Job Centre, a meeting point for local councillors, a point of access to the internet for many and a meeting venue for many local interests. If there are no more local libraries, why pay for them in our council tax?”
  • Kent – Councillor calls for ban on Rolf Harris’ books from Kent libraries – Kent News. “Labour councillor Peter Wallace is supporting the removal of all books written by Harris, for which he still earns money from with each sale or lending.” … ““He was imprisoned for paedophilia. It’s such a horrible offence that I didn’t think KCC would still be lending his books.”
  • Lincolnshire – New volunteer-run library all set to open – Sleaford Standard. “Heckington did not have an existing library building, instead being visited by a mobile library – but the parish council saw an opportunity to expand the service if funding and volunteers came together.
    Parish councillors have agreed to take on the service for the next four years initially, receiving a £15,000 one-off grant for set-up costs and 4,000 books. They also saved about £6,000 by acquiring second hand library shelves and furniture from the closure of Coningsby library.” … “Chairman Coun Richard Higgs said they were having a structural engineer inspect the community rooms on St Andrew’s Street to decide whether to have the books on the ground or first-floor due to the weight. “
  • North Yorkshire – North Yorkshire library volunteers asked to come forward – Northern Echo. “The controversial move to change the way libraries are run in the county sparked protests and petitions from many communities. But after months of consultation and at times emotional debate, North Yorkshire County Council approved a decision in July to make most of its libraries managed in part – or wholly – by volunteers, as it grappled with making £1.6 million worth of savings. Now those changes are to be explained in a series of information sessions, where residents can speak to library managers and find out more about helping deliver library services.”
  • Southampton – ‘We’ll see you in court’ – Legal threat over closure of libraries in Southampton – Daily Echo. “Friends of the Cobbett Road Library are preparing to launch a landmark appeal against Southampton City Council’s decision to stop running five libraries and a mobile library. The shock bid – which is yet to be fully tabled – would follow in the footsteps of community organisations elsewhere in the country who have gone to the courts to try and overturn their respective council’s decisions to axe libraries.” … “But campaigners face an uphill battle to raise thousands of pounds of legal costs and ensure they have enough time to successfully have their case heard ahead of the council;s looming deadline for closures. “
  • Staffordshire – NHS trust to take over eight Staffordshire libraries – BBC. “South Staffordshire and Shropshire NHS Foundation Trust (SSSFT) spokesperson said “a period of community engagement” prior to taking over would allow the trust to decide upon opening hours and services provided by the libraries. They were not able to comment on potential running costs.” … “The detail of how the eight libraries would be staffed has yet to be worked out, a trust spokesperson said. County council workers will not be involved in running any of the 11 libraries.” see also Delight as Barton Library is taken over by NHS trust – Burton Mail. “Councillor Kennedy said: “I am delighted that it will stay open. My only concern is the staff, as we still need librarians who are confident with the ins and outs of the library.” see also Werrington and Blythe Bridge libraries to be run by community groups – Leek Post and Times.
  • Sutton – £1m cuts loom for Sutton’s libraries – Guardian Series. “Sutton Council must slash £1m from its £4.4m library budget and councillors will face off over the cutbacks tonight, September 17. Council leader Ruth Dombey blamed “unprecedented cuts to local authority budgets by the Government”, which will see the council save £74m from its budget by 2019. Diana Gerald, chief executive of reading charity the Book Trust, said: “Well-resourced libraries remain a gateway to equality of educational achievement and are an affordable source of great pleasure for those who could not otherwise afford to read well, and often. “