Three library closures confirmed in East Ayrshire (following on from three more last year there) and a proposed co-location in Greenwich are the main physical changes. In other news, there appears to be a combined response to library cuts in northeast England.  There are also, unusually, two positive stories about volunteer libraries, although I know from campaigners to take the one about Walcot Library in Swindon with a large dose of salt. Going abroad, there’s a lovely story about a Greek library – inspired by bustling British ones – that shows what’s possible in austerity, even if that austerity is in Greece and not in England.


National news

  • Call You & Yours: What Inspired You to Read? – BBC Radio 4. “This year marks the centenary of the birth of Roald Dahl – the first writer many children read for pleasure. Studies suggest reading for pleasure is as important for a child’s educational achievement as family income and background. So how can you persuade children that a good story is as fun as a good game?  On Call You & Yours we would like to find out how to inspire children to read. Tell us which books first got you excited about reading, and which ones you will be passing on to your children? Please email youandyours@bbc.co.uk. The programme also hears from well known children’s authors, and the Children’s Laureate, Chris Riddell, who tells us how he thinks children can be encouraged to read for fun.”
  • Digital literacy: sharing good practice – Wolfenden Report. “This was a free event, designed for public librarians and those in the Higher and Further education sectors to share knowledge regarding the library’s increasing role in improving the digital literacy of its users” … “to the UK Digital Inclusion Charter,  11 million people lack basic digital skills“. … “Unanimously, and unsurprisingly, human resources were said to be the main issue staff faced due to an increased demand from users being directed to the Library, not always with the staff members’ knowledge, and a lack of skills to deal with the advice users were asking for when filling out the paperwork.”
  • Government admits failure in bid to end mobile blackspots – Mobile News. ““I am also happy to defend our record on libraries, despite the brickbats that I get from library campaigners, but I am fully prepared to stand up in the Chamber and admit that the mobile infrastructure project has not been as successful as we had envisaged. We set aside £150 million. We talked about 600 sites. Our heart was in the right place.”
  • North East libraries to throw down the gauntlet over funding cuts as numbers continue to fall – Chronicle. “Cash-strapped council chiefs will meet with librarians and members of the public next month to forge a “survival plan” for the much-loved service. The summit, to be held in Newcastle, comes after the Government confirmed it was pressing ahead with a dramatic reduction in funding for local authorities.” … “Coun Stockdale has set up a petition which he hopes will gather momentum ahead of the summit in late March. He said: “The petition I’ve launched calls on the Government to look at both of these issues and I think unless they do something quickly, the future of public libraries as we know them is under real threat.”
  • Titan Comics reveals date for 2016 Doctor Who Comics Day – “Doctor Who Comics Day is a global event inspired by Titan Comics’ Doctor Who comic books. In its third year, the event is set to be even bigger with new comics and collections, signings and events across the globe.
    2015’s event tied-in with a special, brand-new, five-part weekly Doctor Who comics cross-over series by Paul Cornell and Neil Edwards, and saw comic readers get the chance to celebrate Doctor Who Comics Day at over 2900 locations including comic shops, bookstores, retail chains and libraries.” July 9th.

International news

  • Australia – Chinese New Year: Solar-powered monkey made of plastic bottles lights up National Library – ABC. ” giant red monkey made from plastic bottles has taken centre stage in the forecourt of the National Library of Australia (NLA) to celebrate the Chinese Year of the Monkey.”
  • Canada – French lessons: Why a Montreal library could be the model for Ottawa’s new central branch – Ottawa Citizen.  “A decade ago, Quebec did an unprecedented thing, combining the main branch of a municipal public library and the province’s national library in one building. The hybrid has been called both a “temple of literacy” and a “home away from home” with “an atmosphere of exclusivity.””
  • Global – IFLA Green Library Award 2016 – IFLA. “To reward the best Green Library submission that communicates the library’s commitment to environmental sustainability: To create awareness of libraries’ social responsibility and leadership in environmental education.  Libraries of all types are encouraged to participate; To support the worldwide Green Library movement, concerned with; environmentally sustainable buildings, environmentally sustainable information resources and programming, conservation of resources and energy, To promote the development of Green Libraries initiatives locally and worldwide, To encourage Green Libraries to actively present their activities to an international audience.
  • Greece – Story Of A Library That Transformed A Greek City – Bored Panda. “Take a walk in Veria and you’ll see that the library bag is more popular with the town citizens than the usual supermarket ones. In 2015, books, magazines, DVDs, CD-ROMs, kindles and table games borrowed by the Veria library amounted to 2,943,633. It’s like food. It is the intellectual food of the city. It is the city’s heart.”
  • USA – Privatizing Libraries – Sheila Kennedy. “Free public libraries create and nurture community. They cannot be replaced by bookstores (as former Mayor Goldsmith once advocated) or other for-profit ventures. Their importance in the age of the internet has actually grown, as they have moderated the digital divide and curated essential access to credible information. Government isn’t a business. It exists to provide public goods– services that the private sector cannot and will not provide. When we starve and diminish it, we lose that which makes us a community–an “us”–rather than an assortment of winners and losers who simply occupy a common geography.”

Local news by authority

  • Argyll and Bute – Decision to axe school librarians in Argyll ‘utterly disgraceful’ – BookSeller. “As part of an attempt to make £9m worth of savings from its budget in the next two years, the council made the decision to remove 10 librarians from schools in the region last Thursday (11th February), despite widespread protest from library campaigners and authors including Debi Gliori, James Robertson and Christopher Brookmyre. Campaign group Save Scotland’s Libraries has said the impact this “outrageous” decision will have on school children will be “enormous”. The group said: “The decision from Argyll and Bute council to remove all 10 school librarians is utterly disgraceful. There will be an enormous impact in schools and it is undoubtedly pupils who will suffer most from this outrageous decision. It is completely unfair that the pupils of Argyll and Bute will now become educationally disadvantaged from their peers elsewhere in Scotland.””
  • Birmingham – Letters – The Times (behind paywall).  Argues that the truth about the new public library in Birmingham is that it itself is a £189 million “vanity project” that the council could never afford to run without cuts to neighbouring libraries or other services.
  • Bradford – Award for voluntary group behind Addingham’s village library – Craven Herald. “Volunteers who run Addingham Community Library have been presented with an award by the village’s Civic Society in recognition of their commitment and dedication in running the service for the village. This year’s Addingham Civic Society Civic Pride Award was made to the library team earlier this month. The community library was established by residents five years ago, when Addingham Library, along with several other small libraries in Bradford district, became a victim of Bradford Council cuts.”

“Most of the original group of hard-working volunteers, who founded the community library, are still involved – a testimony to their commitment and dedication. They have had to adapt and learn new skills as the service has developed. The library is self-funding, holding quiz nights and regular coffee mornings, and also runs with the help of generous donations.”

  • Cheshire East – New season for Cheshire Rural Touring Arts – Cheshire Today. “The new season will also be the first time CRTA have begun taking professional work into Cheshire’s libraries as part of their “See It Live In Libraries” scheme launching this year. The three year project will see events in eight libraries across the county added to the programme alongside the usual rural venues.”
  • Cornwall – Open day organised at St Ives Library next week – Cornishman. “Cornwall is making severe cuts to its library service; St Ives Library, which was stood since 1896, must also share the £1.8m reduction over the next couple of years. It is thought that negotiations are taking place across Cornwall with local councils, groups and organisations; no decisions have been made about individual libraries yet whilst options are being developed and discussions are ongoing about all sites including St Ives library. The open day will be held on Monday February 22 from 9:30am-7:00pm where an opportunity to share ideas of how to improve the building, a chance to look around the building and time to study displays of its history will all be available.”
  • Coventry – Coventry council library cuts consultation branded a ‘sham’ by campaigners – Coventry Telegraph. “A council consultation into library cuts has been branded a “sham” by campaigners after initial plans were barely altered despite feedback from thousands of people. Coventry council revealed its ‘Connecting Communities’ strategy in November, a plan which will save £1.2million from the budget for libraries, play centres and public toilets. It will result in 35 jobs cuts and the closure of the city’s mobile library.” … “the only change set to be made to the far-reaching strategy is a minor tweak to opening hours at three of the city’s 17 libraries.”

“How in ten days can they possibly have collated these responses, summarised them, met with relevant staff, including the head of service, let alone deliberated and considered these results? “The consultation has, in effect, been a sham exercise only carried out because they were forced to it by the strength of public opinion and as a part of the process.””

  •  Darlington – Fight for Darlington library – Northern Echo. Letter. “Closing a public library will save money, but at the expense of this nation’s future. “
  • Derbyshire – Are libraries going to close in South Derbyshire? – Burton Mail. “By 2020 the funding we get from Government will be more than a third lower than the amount we would need to provide services to the same level as in 2010. “So it’s inevitable more and more people will see changes to the services they use. “No decisions have been made about which libraries could close and any closures would only happen following a period of public consultation.”
  • Dudley – Be Online campaign comes to Dudley libraries – Dudley News. “The free taster IT sessions and drop-in events are set to be held at libraries across Dudley during the ‘Be Online’ campaign from today (February 15) to 28, designed for people who are new to computers and tablets. “
  • Greenwich – Plumstead Library given listed status days before council proposals to demolish all but the facade – South London Press. “Residents welcomed the news that English Heritage (EH) granted Grade II status to the library in Plumstead High Street for its architectural significance and relevance as one of the first funded by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. Shock had been expressed by residents that proposals for the Plumstead Urban Framework, included demolishing all but the facade of the building and build a new combined library, leisure and cultural centre.”
  • Kent – Anti-cuts demo outside Kent County Council budget talks – BBC. “The Unite union said schools, libraries and street cleaning would be cut and Unison said the 2% social care precept would not cover costs.” … “about 80 people protested outside County Hall in Maidstone, including union members, families, students, care home staff and library workers.” … “”They should draw on the £50m which is sitting idly by while they are cutting services and closing down mobile libraries,” “
  • Lambeth – Actor Mark Rylance condemns Lambeth library closures – BookSeller. “British “Bridge of Spies” actor Mark Rylance, who won Best Supporting Actor at 2016’s BAFTA awards last night (14th February), has spoken out in support of a campaign to save Lambeth’s libraries from closure. Rylance, a resident of Lambeth for the past 30 years, called libraries the “fabric of our communities” as he joined in opposition to the council’s plans to privatise the services. Lambeth plans to close five out of 10 of the borough’s libraries in April and replace employees with volunteers.” … “Lambeth library workers first went on strike over the plans in November last year and at least a quarter of the libraries’ staff will be made redundant if the plans go ahead, Unison has said. Tim O’Dell, local librarian and member of Unison, told The Bookseller that campaigners “cannot accept” the library closures or the loss of jobs.” see also Library closures are a betrayal, says Mark Rylance – London Evening Standard.
  • Lancashire – West Lancashire villages come together to oppose library and bus cuts plan – Southport Visiter. “Representatives from all four Northern parish villages attended a packed meeting, at the Cock and Bottle in Tarleton, on Monday night, to oppose planned cuts to transport and library services, announced by Lancashire County Council. More than 800 people have also already signed an online petition against the proposals.” … “Councillor Kay stressed that closure of the library coupled with the potential removal of the bus service to Ormskirk, via Burscough, would leave pensioners, the young, poor, and migrant workers virtually isolated.”
  • Leicestershire – Library use drops across Leicestershire – Hinckley Times. “The cash-strapped authority is off-loading many smaller, rural libraries onto community groups ” … “From its peak in 2010 when physical visits to Leicestershire’s libraries were 5,895 visits per 1,000 population (against a national average of 4,864) overall visits have declined to 3,866 visits per 1,000 population (against a national average of 4,049). Before 2015 Leicestershire had one of the highest numbers of libraries with 56 branches however by 2020 it will fully fund only 16.”
  • Oxfordshire – Spring date set for opening of Bicester’s brand new library – Oxfordshire Council. “The new library will be larger than the current facility and will allow Oxfordshire County Council’s Library Service to offer an improved service. There will be more public access computers than at the current Bicester Library and the availability of WiFi will offer increased opportunities for people to get online and further develop their digital skills. There’ll also be a broader choice of books and audio visual items and increased opportunities to join in with regular activities such as weekly rhyme-times for babies and toddlers, family learning activities and reading groups.”
  • Reading – Reading libraries: cuts in opening hours and moves proposed – Get Reading. “Reading councillors are to launch a consultation tonight which looks at making cuts in opening hours across all the borough’s libraries. It also proposes major changes at Whitley and Southcote libraries. These changes are being forced on Reading Borough Council the council by cuts in Government funding. The policy committee tonight, Monday, February 15, will not be making decisions on the library service – just launching the consultation.”
  • Sandwell – Libraries staff take on Wolf Run for charity – Sandwell Council. “They are competing in the challenge – a hardcore 10km off-road run with obstacles – under the team name Librarians Run Quietly.”
  • Staffordshire – People from across Staffordshire are being urged to volunteer at libraries across the county – Burton Mail. “Those who want to take part have to commit to a minimum of two hours a week, which will give them the opportunity to meet new people and learn new skills, while promoting the services libraries have to offer including reading groups, bounce and rhythm sessions for children and job search activities.”
  • Swindon – Volunteer library operator says model can work – Swindon Advertiser. “Former councillor Peter Mallinson has run the library, and the attached charity shop, for six years and recently overseen a move to new premises. Along with a team of up to ten volunteers, he ensures the facility is open at least five days a week.” … “Firstly, the organisation is officially a registered charity which means it gets relief on business rates” … The charity shop also operates out of the library which not only means some of the money can go towards good causes, but some of the costs can be met. Some of the major costs, such as the building lease, are still being met by the council but Peter believes it is possible to find the savings required”
  • West Berkshire – West Berkshire library closures ‘unimaginable’ – BBC. “West Berkshire Council has announced a public consultation on the idea of shutting the majority of libraries and two mobile library services. The council plans to save £730,000 from the libraries budget, amid £17.5m of savings across council services. If the plan was implemented, Newbury Library would be the only one key.” … “Hungerford community magazine editor David Piper said the potential closures would be “unimaginable, unthinkable and unworkable”.”