A few things this post.  The first is there’s a lot of Arts stuff going on, not least in the small Slough authority (just seven branches) which has been given £625k for events by the Arts Council. That’s a lot of money for a borough of 140,000 people and we can hope to see some brilliant things coming from it, even though much of the money is not for libraries. On the other side of the scale, there’s a lot of the now standard cuts happening, with the notable difference being that it is now as likely to happen in Scotland – long seemingly protected from cuts – than it is south of the border.  Special mention nationally must go, again, to Birmingham where, unsurprisingly, drastic cuts to funding has led to a decline in usage. The cost of the Library of Birmingham is staggering (superlatives get used a lot when talking about this place: it’s £70,000 per day due to the repayments and interest) and, even though visits still work out at a very impressive 3 or 4 per resident per year, it’s hard not to expect further worrying headlines about it in the future.

I had the pleasure of being interviewed by BBC Radio Lancashire on Friday morning about volunteer libraries (link here: Locality at 1′ 10″, myself at 2′ 14″).  The general tone of the breakfast show was very pro-volunteer, with a speaker from Locality being a notable salesman for the income opportunities possible.  Sadly, of course, libraries are simply not geared up for income generation (if you’re making money from a library, you’re doing it wrong) and, although, volunteer libraries can be – and are – successful (with caveats like long-term uncertainty etc being hopefully understood) in some places, it so depends on the location and number of willing volunteers. Finding enough for 40 branches in Lancashire (one-fifth of all libraries put under threat in the least year are from that council alone) is going to be a tough ask.  And pretending otherwise does no-one any favours.


National news

  • Grammar matters, Charles says as he backs National Libraries funding appeal – BT. “The Prince of Wales declared the importance of using correct grammar as he backed an appeal for funds to ensure great works of literature can be accessed in the National Libraries” … “Charles is Royal Patron of the Friends of the National Libraries (FNL) charity, which has a fund in his name. Budget cuts have made it difficult for many institutions to keep important collections open to the public, the charity said, as it appealed for donations. Its chairman Lord Egremont said: “If FNL fails to increase, very substantially, the funds that we have to support acquisitions our nation’s story will increasingly be lost to the public domain.”

International news

  • Global – Save the Date: Free IFLA/ALA webinar “Library Services to Immigrants and Refugees” – IFLA. “an online resource that will be recorded for colleagues to revisit and listen anywhere at any time.”
  • Sri Lanka – Sri Lankan Tamils around the world have built an online library to replace one torched in 1981 – Scroll. “Seran Sivananthamoorthy is only 25 years old which is why his knowledge of the Jaffna Public Library is limited to memory and anecdote. The library with some 95,000 volumes including the only original copy of the Yalpana Vaipavamalai or the History of the Kingdom of Jaffna was set alight by a mob in 1981 as tensions rose between the island’s Sinhalese and Tamil communities in the prelude to Sri Lanka’s civil war”.  Fears it may happen again. “The archive is funded by the community and driven overwhelmingly by volunteers. Its contents include photographs of 5,000 timeworn pages that make up 24 palm-leaf manuscripts, and books such as Yalpana Samaya Nilai or Religion in Jaffna that date to 1893. The longest documents it has stored on its servers are four volumes of Tolkappiyam, one of the oldest Tamil grammar books.”
  • USA – New Hampshire bill allows public libraries to run Tor in the face of federal challenges – Daily Dot. “New Hampshire state legislators have introduced a new bill that allows public libraries to run privacy software like Tor. The bill, crafted by State Rep. Keith Ammon (R) and sponsored by six other lawmakers, emphasizes the role that encryption and privacy tools will play in upholding the long tradition of privacy in public libraries.”
  • USA – The New York Public Library Hopes You’ll Make Video Games – Motherboard. “Mauricio Giraldo, a designer in the New York Public Library Labs, made a video game using some of the library’s own collections of public domain materials, and the institution is hoping you’ll follow.” … “Earlier in the year, NYPL released a massive collection of documents online. Over 180,000 photos, blueprints, books and maps, a sprawling collection of collections in high-resolution and, more importantly, all belonging to the public domain. NYPL has been digitizing since the late 90s, but Kimball said last year they wanted to “really do right by the public domain.”
  • USA – Wadmalaw residents offered drinking water at Johns Island library – Post and Courier. “Wadmalaw Island residents concerned about their well water will be able to fill jugs with free treated drinking water at the Johns Island Regional Library, Charleston County officials said Thursday. The water dispenser at the library on Maybank Highway near Main and Bohicket roads will be available in about three weeks, the officials said.”

Local news by authority

  • Argyll and Bute – Librarians removed in budget cuts – Argyllshire Advertiser. “Every school librarian in Argyll and Bute will be made redundant after Argyll and Bute Council passed the administration’s budget.”
  • Birmingham – Visitors to Library of Birmingham plummet by a quarter – Birmingham Mail. “A total of 1.83 million people passed through the doors of the library in 2015 – which works out at about 5,000 per day based on a six-day week. The figures, for a tough year for the library which saw opening hours cut, represented a decline from the 2.4 million the year before when it became the most-visited attraction in the UK outside London. The library costs the council more than £70,000 for every day it operates as a result of giant interest bills.” … “Even so, the 3.89 million visitors to Birmingham’s libraries works out at everyone in the city visiting a branch between three and four times last year.”
  • Bradford – Library closures and adult and children’s services cuts top public’s fears ahead of Bradford Council’s crunch budget meetings – Telegraph and Argus.  “a public consultation revealed potential library closures and cuts to adult and children’s services topped people’s fears for the next two years. ” … “Petitions have also been submitted against proposals to close libraries, cuts to youth service provision, a reduction in community development workers, and the de-commissioning of financial and welfare advice services. The highest number of submissions, about 115, related to the potential closure of libraries.”
  • Cheshire West and Chester – Neston, Little Sutton and Upton libraries to welcome children’s show Bardolph’s Box – Chester Chronicle. “Bardolph’s Box is the opening show of Cheshire Rural Touring Arts’ spring season of touring, taking professional arts events to rural venues and libraries across the county from March until July this year. Unity Theatre’s artistic director, Matthew Linley, said: “We’re all really excited to be working alongside Up The Road Theatre to help little Bardolph come into the world – or rather into a library, school, arts venue or community hall near you.”
  • East Sussex – New theatre and alternative library at the Observer Building – Hastings Observer. “The first floor gallery will host exhibitions and workshops from the local art scene and a new alternative community library will offer informal café, free WIFI, meeting space and information sharing.”
  • East Sussex – Pevensey Bay Library will be returned to the community, and that is a promise – Pevensey Bay Life. “Pevensey Bay Village comes together in community show of strength. News of the demonstration began on Radio Sussex at 6:30am . As the local news sequence began, second on the agenda was the story of the little village in East Sussex campaigning to see their library re-open” … “As the news reader explained that as a result of a flood in January 2015, that the library had been closed ever since, the importance of the campaign was suddenly shoved local centre stage.”
  • Enfield – Council deny selling books as pretext to library closure – Barntet Today. “On Tuesday, The Advertiser witnessed a van emblazoned with the logo WeBuyBooks.co.uk being loaded with boxes of books taken from inside the John Jackson library in Agricole Place, Bush Hill Park” … “Former physics teacher Michael Hardyman, who lives in Bush Hill Park, said that over the past three months he has seen the permanent closure of the music room in the library, fewer desks for students to study on and a gradual reduction in book shelves and IT terminal space throughout the library. However, The Council is adamant that they are not selling off all the books in the library as a way to raise some quick cash.” … “She said that the books are sold to a private, profit-making company, Revival Books, who either sell them on again, or pulp them for recycling. In the past year this process has raised £3,300 for council coffers”
  • Fife – Councillors vote to close 16 libraries in Fife – Fife Today. “Five libraries scheduled to close next month; Eight will stay open for up to a year while alternative proposals are considered; Libraries at high schools considered as alternatives in Glenwood and Abbeyview”
  • Fife – Why I care about keeping Fife’s Libraries open – CILIPS. “Guest Blog by Bryce Sutherland, one of the campaigners behind ‘Keep Fife’s Libraries Open’ as part of the ‘Scotland’s Libraries: Inspiration for the Nation’ Campaign.” … “the question posed most frequently to me, was, in essence, “Why do you care?” The implication was that libraries are obsolete, arcane institutions; a drain on local resources and funding. Who even reads books anymore? Perhaps this shows where the library system has failed. The general populous are still under the incorrect assumption that libraries are quiet spaces for elderly people to peer down their noses at dusty old books, watched over by the imposing matriarchal librarian, forever shushing us into silence.”

“So why do I care? I care because I was once one of those downtrodden desperate people looking for a warm, safe respite for an hour a day to allow me the opportunity to better my circumstances through job searches and maintaining contact with friends I could no longer afford to travel to catch up with. There were and are many people out there who are far worse off than I, and they need all the assets the government can afford them, not fewer. If you are one of the lucky people who can afford all the books, Kindles and internet access money can buy then good for you, but don’t slight those who can’t by giving up on libraries.”

  • Kent – Mobile libraries in Deal, Walmer and Sandwich could be cut – Kent Online. “Kent County Council (KCC) is proposing to withdraw more than half of its mobile libraries – including those that stop in Deal, Walmer and Sandwich. A consultation document, available online, proposes to remove stops that have only had, on average, two or less visitors over the period October 2014 to September 2015, reducing the number of stops from 651 to 283.”
  • Lambeth – Waterloo Library: ‘meanwhile space opportunity’ in Lower Marsh – London SE1. “As Lambeth Council prepares to shut Waterloo Library in its current form, the authority has revealed plans for a ‘meanwhile use’ of the Lower Marsh building pending redevelopment.” … “Waterloo Library is due to close just after Easter under Lambeth Council‘s controversial ‘Culture 2020’ package of cuts to the borough’s libraries and parks.” … “”A prime location, good support and some creativity to provide employment and entrepreneurial opportunities could make your name.””
  • Lancashire – Bids invited to run Lancashire’s museums and libraries – BBC. “The authority plans to close 40 libraries and withdraw funding for five museums as part of savings worth £65m over the next two years. There are a “number of opportunities” to take over council buildings or services, said a council spokesman.” … “The council said it had not identified which libraries could close but that it was keen to talk to groups interested in keeping them open.”

3pm – 5pm – staffed by volunteers (on occasions the library may be closed on Thursday) …
10am – 12pm – staffed by volunteers (on occasions the library may be closed on Saturday)

Lancashire – Wheatley Lane Library opening hours – Lancashire Libraries. [Opening hours show that the one existing library with volunteers in Lancashire cannot always rely on volunteers to keep it open every standard day – Ed.]

  • Lancashire – Don’t allow libraries to close – Lancashire Evening Post. “What was disappointing was that the debate had little to do with libraries, although the Conservative proposer of the motion did speak eloquently about the situation and the effects that mass closures would have in the county. ” … “Lancashire was, and currently still is, one of the best library services. The previous head of Libraries, a professionally qualified librarian, and then the management that followed his retirement, provided superb libraries and revamped many libraries into cheerful, well designed and well stocked spaces, with many additional community services.” … “What concerned me about the debate was that it seemed to be purely about scoring political points, rather than the consequences to the public, in particular the very young, school children and the elderly.”
  • Lancashire – Longridge leaps into action in face of cuts – Longridge News. “It was felt that, with town and parish councils’ operational changes due to the government’s austerity policies, the town council should use its powers to adopt a more proactive approach to identifying and resolving issues affecting the town. An increase in its precept was overdue, Coun Swarbrick said, after hearing that some parishes were looking at funding their own buses after the cuts and others were also setting aside funding to support their libraries.”

“Rather than wringing our hands or sitting on them, the answers to problems we could face might be in our hands.”

  • Lancashire – Pendle peer challenges Government over library cuts – Burnley Express. “Pendle Liberal Lord Greaves has challenged the Government over the proposed closure of 40 libraries in Lancashire – including possibly up to five in Pendle. In the House of Lords he asked what assessment it had made of the impact of the Local Government Finance Settlement on the provision of libraries.” … “She went [Baroness Nevile-Rolfe] on to say libraries should be looking to use more volunteers, which is what people are hoping to do in Pendle to keep some of them open. “But she completely failed to accept that it’s the massive cuts in government funding which is causing the problem in the first place.”
  • Lewisham – Lobby Lewisham Council – Save Lewisham Libraries. “Come along to the next lobby of Lewisham council as they set the budget for next year including the cuts to library services”
  • Oxfordshire – Effects of library cuts – Swindon Advertiser. “Cuts by Oxfordshire County Council, coupled with those imposed by Swindon Borough Council will hit some communities very hard. This “double whammy” effect will hit the communities on the borders of the County and Borough in a disproportionate way.” … “When Swindon proposes to reduce library provision to only its large central library, and Oxfordshire cuts the mobile library van service (including to the schools), we are left in our villages with a “double whammy” effect of local government cuts”

“Engagement from the Member of Parliament for Wantage (including Shrivenham), the Rt Hon Ed Vaizey MP has been cursory, in spite of his position as the Minister for Culture directly responsible for library provision. The myth that the internet can make up for library cuts must be debunked at the highest levels.”

  • Plymouth – Video: Take a 3D virtual tour of Plymouth’s new Central Library before it opens – Herald. “Builders have worked tirelessly over the past four months in converting vacant retail and bank units on the corner of Armada Way and Mayflower Street into a modern, flexible and welcoming library which will replace the one at Drake Circus. As well as helping to make way for the £32million History Centre, which is due to open in 2010, the move is considered a major step forward in Plymouth City Council’s (PCC) ambition to modernise its library service. Service manager, Mandy Macdonald, believes the new central library – which will offer computer access, free Wi-Fi and the services of a cafe – will quash public misconceptions about libraries.”
  • Slough – Slough to be given £625,000 boost to develop arts in the town – Slough Express. “Funded by Arts Council England, a consortium including Rifco Arts theatre company, Slough Libraries and SWIPE, a charity which provides music activities for young people in Slough, will be working to grow the arts community in the borough. The £625,000 investment is called ‘Home’ and aims to create a ‘sense of pride’ for people by connecting them to a number of activities, including music and dance. The first series of activities is expected to start in spring to coincide with the opening of The Curve, a new multi-million pound cultural centre in Wellington Street. Aside from funding for Home, Arts Council England has given Slough Borough Council £49,000 to develop arts and culture at The Curve.”
  • South Gloucestershire – MP Jack Lopresti joins fight to save South Gloucestershire libraries after his own party vote to consult on closures – Gazette. “Mr Lopresti said he was ‘disappointed’ at the plans unveiled by his own Conservative party to cut library services and said money should be saved elsewhere to protect frontline services. His statement comes two days after the Tory-run council agreed to spend a £3.6million government handout on cutting the district’s opt-in green bin charge from £36 to £30 over safeguarding services including libraries, youth services and council-funded PCSO posts.” … “The decision, furiously challenged by South Gloucestershire’s Labour and Liberal Democrat parties, has sparked outrage on social media with many people saying they would happily pay the annual £36 subscription charge to have their green bin emptied if it meant other services were saved.”
  • Suffolk – New Suffolk Libraries campaign aims to get people reading – Ipswich Star. “While literacy continues to be a nationwide issue, library bosses are keen to encourage reading as a pleasurable activity, through a number of events, competitions and ongoing projects as part of the ‘Our year of reading’ campaign.” … “A major conference has been set up for May 27 for education chiefs to discuss ideas with libraries over ways to achieve a new reading culture in schools.”

“The Our year of reading campaign will feature a number of strands, including outreach work with schools through dedicated literacy ambassador Matt Shenton and the Chatterbooks programme to get children reading, as well as a calendar of events and book festivals.”

  • Suffolk – Youngsters flock for library craft events in Ipswich – Ipswich Star. “Gainsborough Library youngsters enjoyed taking part in family colouring activities with their parents, alongside other games. At Chantry Library, children and adults came together for a special colouring project, before the children could have a go at crafting their very own creatures. The library’s new Minecraft group for ages eight to 13 was also launched, bringing children together to socialise through the game.”
  • Warrington – Readers’ anger at slashing of library opening hours – Warrington Guardian. “The shorter hours mean that people can’t visit in the early evening and to be closed all day Friday is appalling. “