Mobile libraries make the Independent today, who mourn the loss of all seven of them in Hertfordshire.  This is mirrored by the announcement from Hampshire that it too may lose its mobile library service.  My records tell me that Hampshire lost no less than 13 in 2011, lost more stops in 2012, and had 2 of the remaining 5 threatened last year so that’s a massive reduction from 18 to none.  Indeed, it looks very much like a long term strategy there to annihilate its mobiles, although more likely (as the famous phrase goes) it was just one thing following another.

The reasons put forward tend to focus on the cost per issue: driving a library to the user  has been known to cost far more per visit than a similar one to a library building In addition, the raison d’etre of mobile was to get to people who had no transport or access to information and councils argue that many now have cars and the internet.  Some librarians report anecdotally BMWs being driven to the mobile library stop or regular static library users commenting that they get their top ups from the mobile. Where none of this applies, councils are often at pains to increase their housebound service where staff (or more often volunteers) drop off books directly to the house.

However, that’s only one side of the story: councils have also been greatly reducing public transport (those buses cost) and so isolation is not something that is disappearing.  There’s some heart rending stories of regular users of mobile libraries now being left with no access to books at all and missing on their regular friendly chats (sometimes one of the few human interactions they have) with the mobile library staff. In addition, the library trend to reduce mobiles (the Independent reports numbers have dropped from 548 in the UK in 2009 to 362 in 2014) is hardly universal. Indeed, other authorities, as in Leicestershire, are looking to introduce more mobile library stops to replace closed branches. In such cases, it seems, the mobile or the smaller static library are in some sort of weird Darwinian competition as to which one survives.


National news

  • Digital Census 2015: five key findings – BookSeller. Mobile overtakes tablets and dedicated e-readers as the device of choice; Digital sales are still growing, but they are also slowing; Self-love levels recede as many indie authors report lower satisfaction levels; Publishing remains very much divided on matters digital; And the majority believe publishers remain unprepared for what is coming.
  • Major collaborative study explores information poverty amongst young first-time mothers – Medical Xpress. “Researchers from the University, in partnership with Glasgow Life and Barnardo’s, are examining ‘information poverty’ around these and other issues, as well as ways in which public information providers can help the mothers, and their children, to prosper in the digital age. The UK has one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in western Europe, with associated conception rates related to multiple deprivation indexes. Groups identified as being at risk are disadvantaged and disengaged, and concerns have been raised about fair access to information, both digital and printed.”
  • Paved with good intentions – Leon’s Library Blog. “Unfortunately, the involvement of qualified librarians in volunteer run libraries: Undermines the integrity of librarianship and enables the deprofessionalisation of the public library sector; Limits career opportunities of those still in or newly entering the profession; Gives a façade of respectability to council cuts; Supports the erroneous notion that volunteer services are as good as those run by paid staff. I’m sure the inclination to save a much loved local library is genuine. However, I also feel that retired librarians who have enjoyed a rewarding career and the good fortune of paid employment should not support a system that denies the same opportunities to their fellow professionals.”
  • ‘Public Library and Other Stories’, by Ali Smith – Financial Times. ““That tiny library,” says Anna James, “gave me access to worlds and lives that a child growing up in rural Northumberland could never have hoped to experience anywhere else.” With characteristic exuberance, Smith’s own stories leap across time and space, delighting in unexpected connections. People are transported out of everyday life by dreams and delusions, by the erroneous or unpredictable (a woman in a wheelchair is trapped on a terminated train; a child’s imaginary friend won’t leave the table), by conversations with people on other side of the world, or the other side of a computer screen. Ghostly presences flit in and out, their stories interrupting the present: Katherine Mansfield chuckles on a park bench, a deceased father dispenses life advice, while a spectral simulacrum of Smith herself watches over the Christmas dinner of a scammer who’s stolen her identity. “

International news

  • Canada – Three things that would make Toronto public libraries even greater – Rabble. “Despite a rise in public library usage, there are about 25 per cent fewer library workers in Toronto’s public library system today than there were two decades ago, thanks to funding cuts.”
  • South Africa – Rinse, Spin, Read To Kids: It’s A Mashup Of Laundromat and Library – NPR. “Poor mothers often spend way too much time hunched over a washboard. What if they could use those hours to curl up with their kids and read a book instead? A group of friends at Oxford University plans to find out by developing a combination childhood education and laundry services center, a concept they’ve dubbed a “Libromat.””
  • USA – Amid East St. Louis strike, library struggles to offer alternatives for children – St Louis Post-Despatch. “Shortly after the teachers strike began, Ruth Dunn found herself trying to figure out how to help the trickle of kids coming into this city’s only public library, whose children’s department has just one Dr. Seuss title and row after row of empty shelves. Every few hours, siblings come in pairs. An adolescent comes for computer access. A high school student comes to research colleges, scholarships or jobs. Dunn, the children’s librarian since Oct. 5, does what she can in a library that offers mostly faded titles and several stacks of outdated tax forms. She sits at a desk under a sign marking the children’s department, scouring the Internet for grants and possible sources of revenue.”
  • USA – Truro library pumpkin makes a splash on Internet – Boston Globe. “A decorated pumpkin sitting on the shelf of the Truro Public Library has gained global fame this week among Facebook’s librarians and book lovers, the library director said. The pumpkin, carved by local children and decorated by library staff, features several Lego people sitting in the comfort of their own mini-library under a tangled string of lights. For Halloween, the Lego people will even be adorned in costumes”

Local news by authority

  • Bradford – Library set to close and users to be sent elsewhere as lease expires – Telegraph and Argus. “Girlington Library in The Willow Street will close its doors on Thursday at 5.30pm as it lease expires at the end of this year. The space was leased by Bradford Council and it will not be renewed at its current location. People have now been asked to instead use Manningham Library, Carlisle Road, which is less than a mile away, and City Library in Centenary Square. But Bradford Council has held talks with representatives from Girlington Community Centre, Girlington Road, and Toller ward councillors since March this year about transferring the library to its site.”
  • Cambridgeshire – MP criticises “cruel and colossal” £120m cuts to County Council – Varsity. “Whilst plans are not finalised, likely targets for savings will be ending the mobile library service and removing funding for school crossing patrols. It is anticipated that the biggest cut, of approximately £10m, will be to the council’s care budget.”
  • Dudley – “We’re not going to close any library”, Dudley Council cabinet member pledges – Stourbridge News. “Councillor Rachel Harris, the cabinet member responsible for libraries and archives, outlined the authority’s plan to hive off the borough libraries, archives and adult learning service into a new employee-led mutual organisation as its battles against a continued reduction in funding from central government. Cllr Harris told the meeting the plan to have council employees set up a new organisation, separate to the local authority, to deliver the service was vital to avoid library closures while achieving a 33 per cent saving from 2017/18 onwards.”
  • Halton – Talking books service which helps Runcorn and Widnes residents could be withdrawn  – Liverpool Echo. “Halton Council’s executive board have been recommended to approve the phased withdrawal of subscriptions to the service, offered by the Royal National Institute For The Blind (RNIB). A report published prior to the meeting on Thursday, November 5, said that the service’s withdrawal will save £20,000 and contribute to an overall saving of £50,000 to the council’s vision rehabilitation services.”
  • Hampshire – Uncertain future for libraries in new Hampshire County Council review – Hampshire Chronicle. “A report on reviewing the libraries says that the mobile service, which costs £360,000 a year, could be axed and replaced “with modern alternatives” from 2017. It says that the service costs £360,000 a year and is used by just 2,230 people with demand declining and the vehicles coming to the end of their lives.”
  • Hertfordshire – Hertfordshire becomes the latest council to cut mobile libraries – Independent.  “They marked the occasion with a bittersweet party on the village green. Steve, driver and custodian of the mobile library, was treated to home-made cake and sloe gin by the villagers of Bury Green, Hertfordshire. After choosing from among hundreds of books, children ran around the green while the grown-ups chatted, as they had done every time the mobile library visited – but would do no more. Because on 30 October, faced with central government funding cuts, Hertfordshire County Council closed its mobile library service.” … “At £14 per visit, she said, the mobile library service was relatively expensive. It did not take advantage of “technological advances”.”

“Austerity has already reduced the number of mobile libraries – the vans that bring books to the remoter communities of Britain – from 548 in the UK in 2009 to 362 in 2014, and the cuts show no sign of abating.”

  • Kirklees – Cabinet made to rethink libraries call – Dewsbury Reporter. “Kirklees Council’s Cabinet has been told to reconsider its decision on the future of libraries in the area. The local authority’s Scrutiny Committee made the call following an intervention by the Liberal Democrat group, who tabled a number of objections to the decision.” … “Although 24 of Kirklees’ 26 libraries will be kept open to the relief of campaign groups, Lib Dem councillors have expressed concern about the impact reduced working hours and increased need for volunteers could have on their long-term futures. Some libraries will become completely staffed by unpaid community volunteers to keep them open.”
  • Lincolnshire – New volunteer-run library all set to open in a few days – Sleaford Standard. “The volunteer-run facility will be permanently situated in the Community Rooms in St Andrew’s Street. Previously, the village just had mobile library services. As previously reported, parish councillors successfully bid for a share of funding offered by Lincolnshire County Council in its plan to reshape the library service – giving up smaller libraries to be run by volunteers.”
  • Walsall – Hundreds of jobs to go at Walsall Council, leader warns – Express and Star. “As part of the proposed cuts, seven out of 16 libraries and the mobile library service would shut, with the loss of 13 jobs, as part of plans to save £328,854 next year and £159,058 the year after. Walsall’s decision-making cabinet voted through the financial plan at the meeting on Wednesday night.”