So I have a page listing what august publications have linked to Public Libraries News or quoted it. One of the first I put on there, many years ago when I was impressed by such things, was the House of Commons Library which mentioned the total number of threatened libraries which I had pieced together.  It was therefore with some deja vu that I read their new report (I wonder if they do one every five years) and noticed me quoted again.  Not that my name is mentioned. No, apparently I’m an “online campaign group”, which is amusing. It then notes that while the blog covers the issue, “the DCMS has not made any assessment of the accuracy of the information” which I publish. That is also a bit funny as I know they use the website quite a lot. So how come the caution? Everything I count has the original source linked to. Just click on the links guys. Hmm, odd.

The same research paper notes that the DCMS estimate the number of library closures in England since 2010 as a mere 110. As anyone with half an interest in the subject knows, this is a laughably low figure and can only, charitably, have been reached if every library which has become staffed by volunteers is not counted as closed.  Which means the DCMS is counting them as statutory. Which goes directly against what the minister has said time and again.  They’re also not counting mobile libraries, naturally. The report also then mentions 77 new public libraries in the same period. Wow, sounds like a golden time. Of course, they don’t mention the majority of these are replacements or co-locations.  The DCMS also seems unaware of the official CIPFA figures when quoting the figure of 110. Which is strange, as Ed Vaizey has this very week very carefully quoted them to show an increase in libraries in Wiltshire (I assume they took some time looking down the list until they came to a service which reported an increase  – they must have been getting very frantic as they got all the way down to the Ws) and that Labour-controlled Wales had a decline in comparison. It almost looks like, and imagine my shock at this, that the government is selectively quoting figures to back up its case and carefully ignoring anything which may get in the way of their rose-tinted narrative. Shocked gasps all round.

Anyway, I spent Saturday in the glorious library at Oldham.  They were holding a TEDx there.  It was a sold out event and absolutely fascinating. The auditorium at Oldham can only fit around eighty so it’s possible to hold these at many other libraries too.  Think of the street cred for your library service if you do.  I also spent a good hour or two walking around the building.  I was seriously impressed by it and there were some good ideas there. All in all, I recommend a visit to you all.  Just don’t be put off by their naff website if you do plan a visit. Read my review of the place here.



National news

  • George Osborne warns of further cuts as ‘storm clouds’ gather – Guardian. “we may need to undertake further reductions in spending because this country can only afford what it can afford and we will address that in the budget, because I’m absolutely clear we’ve got to root our country in the principle that we must live within our means and we have economic security.””
  • Letter from Parliamentary Under Secretary of State to Lord Collins of Highbury – DCMS. The Culture spokesman in the Lords explains all the actions the Government/DCMS has done to superintend libraries.
  • Public Libraries in England – House of Commons Library Research Briefing. Covers Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964; role of the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport; Inquiry into Wirral library service, 2009; role of Arts Council England; Independent Library Report for England (December 2014); Leadership for Libraries Taskforce; Concerns about library services and closures; How many libraries have closed?; Public Libraries News [Yes, this blog gets a lot of mentions: I am described an “online campaign group” – Ed.]; volunteers; CILIP’s “My Library By Right” campaign;

DCMS “estimated that 110 static public libraries closed in England between January 2010 and January 2016 while at least 77 new public libraries had opened” House of Commons Library Research Briefing

“This paper seems to play down the level of closures, transfers to volunteer groups and cuts in opening hours and staffing and ignores the fact that usage and borrowing have declined significantly.” Desmond Clarke

“The Department does not commission information relating to the closure of rural and urban libraries. Data relating to public libraries is collected and published annually by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy. My Rt Hon Friend will note that the number of library service points in the Wilshire Library Authority has increased from 34 in 2000, to 36 in 2015. Meanwhile, in Labour-run Wales, the number of library service points in the same period dropped from 321 to 274. ” Ed Vaizey, 24th February in House of Commons They Work For You

  • Public Libraries: Innately Subversive Institutions – Pear Drop. ” public libraries are one of the few open and free to access spaces left” … ” And to those who cite Google as a superior model of information governance and provision over public libraries, how illusory is the concept of free and unbiased information in the hands of a multinational company whose income depends dually on filtering search results for profit and serving users according to their market value.”

“The neglect and closure of buildings and cuts to staffing are merely consequences of a political order which rejects the founding philosophy that culture and learning should be open to everyone. While they are still in existence, public libraries are one of the few free and ready resources for fighting back.”

International news

  • Australia – Ozobot races a hit in Boulia – Public Libraries Connect. “Ozobots have been a revelation to the Boulia community, according to library officer Jan Norton. Boulia Library received a grant to run Ozobot workshops giving library members the opportunity to try this fascinating new concept. Young members are so enthralled with the Ozobots that as soon as they are recharged, they are being used again. The children have nicknamed the paths that the Ozobots take as roads, and they have been working on skills to code a required number of stops, starts, speeds and actions along a length of road to see who wins. Share how your community is working with Ozobots with Public Libraries Connect.”
  • USA – Fine Amnesty Campaigns Bring Rewards in Chicago, L.A.– American Libraries. Chicago: “80 branches received at least 20,000 items, worth about $500,000. This was CPL’s third time holding a fine amnesty program—the first was in 1985 just for children, the second in 2012 for all patrons. “The fine amnesty really came out of how can we create an environment that’s more welcoming for our patrons and makes it easier to use our services,” says Brian Bannon, CPL commissioner. “We discovered that many patrons had longstanding fines that were not getting paid [and] were preventing them from using the library. And many of those materials were not getting back to the library.”

“The love-themed campaign, complete with an “I [heart] no fines” photo booth, was successful: 64,633 books were returned; 13,701 patrons had fines forgiven and accounts unblocked so they can use their library card again; and 7,297 people visited one of the 72 library branches and signed up for a library card, an unexpected benefit of the campaign, says Peter Persic, LAPL’s public relations and marketing director.”

““What seems like a small amount of money—$10, $20, $30 to some people—is a difference between someone coming and using the library and not using the library,” Bannon says. “It’s something that we take really seriously in our mission. We want to make sure that the library is free and open to everyone.”

UK local news by authority

  • Aberdeen – Aberdeen City Council backs budget with more than £25m savings – BBC. “Proposals to cut the cultural programme and libraries, as well as increasing parking charges, were ruled out. However, reductions will be made in sports funding.”
  • Barnet – Scrap tuition fees, build more social homes and save libraries: Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell visits Barnet – Times Series. “Mr McDonnell said libraries are the “demonstration of a civilised society” and said he does not support plans to cut them. He said: “I was campaigning on the library closures issues before the last election.”
  • Bradford – Bradford council washes its hands of 14 libraries after ‘devastating’ budget cuts – Guardian. “Bradford council is to withdraw from running 14 libraries across its district, either putting them in the hands of community management groups or, if no bids to run them are forthcoming, close them down.” … “The budget proposal that was initially passed kept seven of Bradford’s full-time libraries safe – the recently opened facility in the city centre and libraries in Keighley, Ilkley and Bingley, Manningham, Shipley and Eccleshill.” … “n addition, if volunteers can be found, two other libraries – Baildon and Clayton – will become “hybrid” libraries, partly staffed by the council but with volunteers making up the rest of the hours.”
  • Coventry – Council pays more to rent library site than Coventry City FC pays to lease Ricoh Arena – Coventry Telegraph. “The council has spent about £2.5m running the Arena Park library since it opened after signing up to a ten-year lease which committed them to retail-level rents” … “The current cost of running the library is £218,000 a year – made up of £110,850 rent, a £17,222 lease service charge and £47,082 business rates, as well as cleaning and energy costs.”
  • Croydon – Newman and Labour cabinet contemplate library closures – Inside Croydon. “Croydon’s ruling Labour group is split over whether to break its manifesto commitment to keep all of the borough’s libraries open” … “Tony Newman, the council leader, and four other members of the all-powerful council cabinet are understood to have voted in favour of abandoning the commitment on libraries, as 15 voted to break a promise to electors, while 11 councillors voted to uphold the manifesto. Those opposed to the idea did not include a single cabinet member, Inside Croydon understands.”
  • Fife – Fight to save libraries ‘has only just begun’ – Courier. “A Fife body is considering legal action as a last ditch bid to save its axed library. Freuchie community council claims the battle has only just begun in the wake of last week’s controversial decision to close its library along with several others. Secretary Patrick Laughlin said the loss of the library would cause immeasurable damage to literacy levels, access to benefits and quality of life.”
  • Fife – Kinghorn Library reprieve welcomed by locals – Fife Today. ” a new group called Kinghorn Library Renewed has written to Fife Council to ask if it could use the current premises for a possible community library and heritage centre.”
  • Lambeth – Lambeth honours librarian whose job is due to disappear – Brixton Blog. “A Lambeth librarian whose job is due to disappear at the end of this month was yesterday (23 February) presented with a Lambeth council award for her outstanding work. Caroline Mackie is library manager at Carnegie Library in Herne Hill – one of three Lambeth libraries due to be turned into gyms with no library staff.”
  • Lambeth – Union to consult all Lambeth members over library strike – Brixton Blog. “The Lambeth branch of the trade union Unison is to ballot all its members in the borough to discover if they would be willing to strike over the council’s plans for its libraries. The union is also planning further days of strike action by library staff in March. A strike on 8 February shut every library in the borough. Unison accused the council of pushing ahead with its closure plans before announcing its attitude to alternative plans drawn up by the head of its own library service.”
  • Leicestershire – Barwell Library fight looks to have been lost – Hinckley Times. “The axe has moved closer to Barwell Library after council chiefs recommended it should close. A paper going to Leicestershire County Council’s cabinet proposes the centre should close on June 1 and be replaced by a weekly mobile library service.”
  • Manchester – Chorlton Library to get major refurb with new suite of computers, sofas and children’s section – Manchester Evening News. “Chorlton Library is to undergo a major revamp – more than a century after the original plans for the building were lost at sea on the doomed Titanic.” … “The interior will be improved, with a suite of new computers and a new children’s library section, as well as comfortable new sofas, chairs, display units and shelving. The Grade II listed library will close from Monday, February 29 and is due to reopen on Thursday, March 17.”
  • Manchester – Levenshulme’s new library and leisure centre opens to public – Manchester Evening News. “Arcadia Library and Leisure Centre boasts swimming pools, a new gym, sauna and steam room, a dedicated community studio and is also home to a new, open-plan neighbourhood library “… “The leisure centre, on Yew Tree Avenue, will be run by Greenwich Leisure Limited, while the library will be managed by Manchester Libraries. Council bosses will this year develop plans for a £16 million transformation of the leisure centres and neighbourhood library facilities at Moss Side and Abraham Moss. Levenshulme’s former library, on Cromwell Grove, closed its doors for the final time last Saturday.”
  • North Yorkshire – Help shape future of town library – Gazette and Herald. Norton: “A steering group is aiming to transform the library in Commercial Street into a community hub ahead of financial cuts from North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC). Norton library was given community status by NYCC at a meeting to debate the future of libraries across the county last July.”
  • Northern Ireland – Tyrone crime fiction author and journalist Anthony J Quinn picked as Northern Ireland Libraries Writer in Residence Mid Ulster Mail. He “the top literary post as part of the libraries’ Creativity Month celebrations. ” … “In addition, the award winning Dungannon author will be facilitating writing workshops, seminars, manuscript clinics and readings in a host of libraries across Northern Ireland. He will also be providing regular updates in a blog about the craft of writing. “
  • Northumberland – Libraries in new LGBT initiative – New Post Leader. “To highlight the stories and experiences of LGBT people and to provide information about sources of support, resources and books are being displayed at Ashington and Cramlington Libraries.”
  • Nottingham – Library closures branded ‘ludicrous’ by local residents – Nottingham Post. “Two libraries could be closed and merged into one inside a refurbished police station.” … “Residents close to the affected libraries – Bakersfield Library and Sneinton Library – have called the plans “ludicrous” and “a real shame”. They fear the proposed new library at Sneinton Dale Police Station would be too far for some vulnerable people to travel to. They are also concerned that much-loved staff could lose their jobs.”
  • Oldham – Oldham Library – Public Libraries News. A review of Oldham Library, looking at it’s services and innovations. [Produced by myself after attending a Tedx event there – Ed.]
  • Oxfordshire – Heine on Friday: Spelling out our libraries’ future after council cuts – Oxford Mail. ““The council is looking at every brick and every piece of paper for savings and the library service can’t be immune from this. We need to save £1m out of a budget of £7.5m and that has to be realised by 2018/19. This is a big ‘ask’ but it’s a matter of ‘we have to’.” .  Main cut is to mobiles. “The further £650,000 will come from a reduction in the book buying fund of £500,000, a contribution from library reserve funds [past savings], library management and staffing reorganisation and retendering the library management and IT system.”

“We will incorporate customer service staff with the library staff. Both groups will be trained in the IT and some of the customer service staff will be located in the libraries. We want to co-locate services, and by that I mean if the accommodation is suitable we can put the children’s centres and the day care centres for the elderly in the libraries. This would be great for everyone because it would bring the community together.”

  • Reading – Libraries in Reading face Government cuts – ITV. “Residents and library users are being asked what they think about plans to reduce opening hours in a bid to save money. The public consultation process runs for 12 weeks and asks residents and library users for feedback on a set of proposals in which all seven local services operating in the borough continue to be delivered, but opening hours are reduced to make savings.”
  • Sheffield – Volunteers to take over one of last Sheffield Council run library services – Star. “Services at Tinsley will be changing from today as Sheffield City Council’s lease on the current building comes to an end” … “Volunteers already run 15 other libraries in Sheffield following council budget cuts.”
  • South Gloucestershire – Petition to save Chipping Sodbury Library gains support Gazette Series. “The online petition calling for the library in High Street to be spared under South Gloucestershire Council’s latest round of savings has so far racked up more than 250 signatures. The petition, on social campaign site 38 Degrees, coincides with a consultation on the future of library services launched on Monday (February 22) by the council. Three options in the consultation involve closing the library which the council says does not have enough unique users, with many also accessing at the bigger Yate Library less than one mile away, to warrant its £42,000 annual costs.”
  • St Helens – The 15 most borrowed books by readers at St Helens Libraries ahead of World Book Day – St Helens Star. “Five children’s books were included in the list with one topping the list – a book about farm animals. Two of David Walliams’ novels, which appeal to readers aged between seven and 10, were on the list as well as two classic fairy tales” … “The top adults’ book was a John Grisham thriller – and recently deceased US author Harper Lee’s classic To Kill a Mockingbird features in the top 15. There are two Lee Child thrillers and two historical romances. “.  Ordnance Survey maps were number six.
  • Staffordshire – Plans to move Lichfield library to St Mary’s in the Market Square – Lichfield Mercury. “Proposals to “safeguard two historic buildings” and open a library in the heart of Lichfield City will be considered by councillors next week. The plan to move the city’s library from its current home at the Friary to the ground floor of St Mary’s in the Market Square will be considered by members of Staffordshire County Council’s Prosperous Staffordshire select committee before any final decision is taken. Ben Adams, Staffordshire County Council cabinet member responsible for Libraries, said that the proposal for a 30-year lease at St Mary’s is in everyone’s interests.”
  • Swindon – Briefing Paper for Libraries Taskforce visit to Swindon – Library Campaign. “ensure that this visit by the Taskforce to Swindon not be treated as a mere fact-finding mission to be buried in a future Report, but welcomed as an opportunity to work with the Council to promote mechanisms that will safeguard a high standard of library provision in Swindon.”
  • Swindon – Government’s library taskforce visits Swindon – Swindon Advertiser. “I have come down to find out first-hand what is happening in Swindon. Part of our role is to have conversations and offer advice because we have seen different models from elsewhere and other approaches to running libraries. “We can therefore share that knowledge. I understand the pressure local authorities are under financially but what’s important is the council engage with users. They have a legal requirement to provide a comprehensive library service.””
  • Swindon – Protesters gather to voice opposition to cuts – Swindon Advertiser. “Organised by the Swindon People’s Assembly, people held placards and chanted against a wide range of issues, including the closure of children centres, cuts to the library budget and plans to increase the number of parishes.”
  • Telford and Wrekin – More libraries set to stay open under Telford council cuts – Shropshire Star. “Stirchley Library will be taken on by Stirchley & Brookside Parish Council at its offices at the Sambrook Centre. Parish councillors are also looking to support the closure-threatened Brookside Central community centre and talks are taking place with local groups. Meanwhile, proposals have been put forward that could see Madeley Library move to the Anstice Memorial Hall to secure its future.”
  • Walsall – Seven Walsall libraries saved…for now – Express and Star. “The Labour and Liberal Democrat budget did not include the proposed closures of Beechdale, Blakenhall, New Invention, Rushall, South Walsall, Walsall Wood and Pleck libraries.” … “The new Labour and Liberal Democrat budget proposed withdrawing cuts in the region of £150,000 to street cleaning services and £211,651 to seven libraries earmarked with closure. The plans will also see Aldridge, Bloxwich, Brownhills and Willenhall libraries becoming Open Plus hubs with extended opening times.”
  • West Berkshire – West Berkshire residents unite to protest against library closure proposals – Newbury Today. “Campaigners from across West Berkshire descended on Newbury Library yesterday to form a mass protest against council proposals to close eight of the district’s nine libraries. Yesterday’s protest was designed to show the council how impractical it would be if everyone from across West Berkshire only had access one library. In a defiant display of community spirit, around sixty people – both young and old – gathered in the library and held up placards.”
  • Worcestershire – MP full of praise for work of libraries – Worcester Observer. “Mr Walker, who has been a long standing supporter of the library and its place as the hub of Worcester’s community, made the visit earlier this month to attend a storytelling session and meet with library staff. Mr Walker also visited St John’s Community Library to meet with adults and children who benefit from the innovative projects the city’s libraries are running.”