First off, I’d like to pay tribute to Desmond Clarke, who has announced (reproduced in full below) that he is retiring from library campaigning.  He has been influencing, as much as any of us outsiders can, the corridors of power in the interest of public libraries for more than decade, without any want of reward. Hats off to him.

Secondly, the House of Commons Library has taken note of the pretty much universal condemnation of its first report on public libraries and produced an extensively revised version, taking note in particular of the concerns raised by CILIP about the unrealistically low number of closures cited.  Well done to the professional body.  Now if only the HoC Library hadn’t deleted all references to Public Libraries News at the same time … Hmmm.

Finally, you’ll recall that I was in awe and then in laughter at the Orkney Library twitter account this week, which somehow they managed to snag an actual visit by the actual JK Rowling to its actual reading group by massive amounts of cheek and offer of cake.  But there’s more to it than that. The story was picked up by a lot of the media (see below) which also detailed some delicious inter-library rivalry, resulting in the classic Orkney “In. Your. Face.” tweet to Shetland Library.  The latter is now hoping to snag Gary Barlow. I can only hope that they do.

“Dear All

I have decided after some eleven years of campaigning for public libraries to take a step back and I will no longer be sending regular links to major media stories and published reports. May I encourage you to subscribe (at no cost) to Public Libraries News which provides a comprehensive summary of what is happening in every authority based on local media reports and councils’ press releases.

During a recent discussion with a senior DCMS official, I showed him my letter published almost ten years ago in October 2006 by THE TIMES (attached) in which I wrote that “the service is desperately in need of leadership and a taskforce to help the 149 separately managed authorities ..” Thanks to William Sieghart’s Report we now have the Taskforce and hopefully it will not be too long before they develop a shared vision for a modern library service and a roadmap to deliver that vision. I very much hope that everyone will then get on the same page to make it happen.

I urge the Taskforce to focus on the needs of library users, to address the structural, technological and resource management issues and to articulate what libraries are for. That necessitates being much more radical than just installing wifi or promoting the Universal Offers. I do not underestimate the challenges but it is essential that, despite the background of austerity, we build a service that re-invigorates the library network and fulfills the needs of the millions of people who rely upon them..

Thank you.




“This has resulted in Shetland Library attempting to get Gary Barlow to visit”

  • Meeting the teams in community run libraries – Libraries Taskforce. “this post reports progress towards the creation of a toolkit for those involved in creating or running community libraries. It does not imply endorsement of this model, but recognises that when they exist, it is in everyone’s interest that they are run as effectively and efficiently as possible for all, learning from others” … visited “Colehill, Wool and Stalbridge community libraries in Dorset; Mitcheldean G17 Hub, and Lechlade community library and information centre in Gloucestershire; Wendover and Farnham Common community libraries in Buckinghamshire; Frecheville and Upperthorpe community libraries in Sheffield” … “Two key models appear to be emerging: a community managed library which is delivered by the community, rarely has paid staff, but often has some form of ongoing local authority support and may be part of the public library network. Or, a community supported library, which is led and funded by the local authority, has paid professional staff and is supported by volunteers.”

“a key fact emerging is that most wish to retain the core library service and be part of the local authority library network. They offer a range of events, and we noticed that children’s activities feature strongly in the range of services offered. Most community run libraries have developed relationships with nurseries and schools and enjoy promoting the summer reading challenge. The toolkit will contain case studies to illustrate the programmes on offer”

“To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, what progress his Department has made in extending the Public Lending Right scheme to e-lending (a) in local libraries and (b) at home.” Gregory Campbell MP, DUP.

The Public Lending Right legislation was revised to extend the PLR scheme to include on-site lending of audio and e-books on 1 July 2014. My Department and the Libraries Taskforce are working closely with the Public Lending Right office and representative groups for libraries, publishers and authors to improve the availability of remote e-lending and to consider options to appropriately remunerate authors and other rights holders. These have been productive discussions and I look forward to progress continuing. Ed Vaizey MP. Conservative. They Work For You

  • Welsh Government invests £14m modernising over 100 libraries – Welsh Government. “The funding has been used to improve facilities for the public, from updated ICT facilities to better community spaces and more flexible library areas, and has led to an increase in usage and membership. Some of the projects have also involved aspects at co-location, transforming libraries into community hubs by combining with other council services, such as leisure facilities and housing advice. The Welsh Government’s support is helping to contribute to the success of Wales’ libraries: there were over 13.6million visits made to public libraries in Wales in 2014-15 and over 11.1million books borrowed.”
  • The Whole Story..? – Leon’s Library Blog. “A recent post on the Libraries Taskforce blog: Meeting the teams in community run libraries discusses work towards the development of a good practice toolkit for such libraries.” … “while the posts goes as far as recognising the contentious nature of the issue and states that no endorsement of the volunteer model is implied I do find it unbalanced in tone and the emphasis is very much on the strengths and successes of the volunteer model. This would be acceptable if recognition was also given to the pitfalls inherent in the system as a counter-point. Certainly any informed advice from the Taskforce needs to balance the pro and cons in a realistic narrative, if only to avoid the accusation of bias towards the government’s localism agenda.”
  • World Book Day smashes Guinness World Record – BookSeller. “World Book Day today (3rd March) announced it has broken a Guinness World Record for the number of people taking part in a book quiz, as retailers, librarians and authors in the UK gear up to mark the annual event with events across the country. The organisers behind World Book Day said 6,388 children and adults from 62 schools, libraries, bookshops and publishers took part in a quiz about children books, beating the previous record of 2,679.”
  • World Book Night 2016 – British Library. “The British Library and The Reading Agency present a special gala evening beginning with a fantastic line up of authors and other guests – each discussing the place of books in their lives and reading from some of their favourites. Cathy Rentzenbrink, author of last year’s Sunday Times bestseller The Last Act of Love chairs the evening which features World Book Night authors past and present, including Matt Haig, Dreda Say Mitchell, S J Parris, Holly Bourne and Sathnam Sanghera.”

International News

  • India – ‘Encourage elderly to visit libraries using technology’ – Business Standard. “The older people in your country and in my country still like to come to library though the number may be declining. There is a huge opportunity. I think by encouraging them, we would be providing opportunities to make them feel they are needed,” Tom Forrest, former Director of Cultural Services in Oxfordshire, told PTI here on the eve of his interaction with library experts of the country in New Delhi. ” see also Why public libraries need to become people’s network – DNA India.
  • Morocco – Restoring the world’s oldest library – Ideas Ted. “The ancient al-Qarawiyyin Library in Fez isn’t just the oldest library in Africa. Founded in 859, it’s the oldest working library in the world, holding ancient manuscripts that date as far back as 12 centuries. But modern life had taken a toll on the library, with its buildings falling into disrepair. That’s why in 2012, the Moroccan Ministry of Culture asked TED Fellow and architect Aziza Chaouni to rehabilitate the library so that it can reopen to the general public. She describes the challenges inherent in undertaking a daunting, historic project. “
  • USA – Library event helps families who have loved ones in jail – Hamilton Spectator. “The afternoon event, organized by the HPL, Canadian Families and Corrections Network, and the John Howard Society, featured speeches from the Hamilton Police Service, as well as from Marg Holland, author of “Jeffrey Goes to Jail,” a kids’ book about a boy’s first visit to see his father in jail. Mainly though, the day offered families the opportunity to socialize and talk, to enjoy cake, candy, and cookies, and to find out more about support services available through organizations such as John Howard, the Elizabeth Fry Society, and The Bridge.”
  • USA – To Charge or Not to Charge? A Tutoring Story – Public Libraries Online. “The Library Board of the Park Ridge Public Library, in a suburb of Chicago, has enacted a new policy: a $10 per hour fee for using the library space to tutor children. This applies to for-profit as well as not-for-profit tutors.[1] The policy was enacted February 1, 2016, but the hourly fees were not applied until March 1 so that patrons had time to adjust to the new rule. The overall community response so far appears to be negative, as parents worry about where their children can now go to be tutored. A local pastry shop and eye care clinic are offering up space in their facilities to be used for tutoring purposes at no cost and no pressure to purchase their items.”

Local news by authority

  • Bute and Argyll – Mull & Iona Libraries Action Group – Vimeo. See also Scottish islanders’ video protest after council scraps school librarians – TES. “Without the library I feel I would really struggle,” says one boy at the school, which takes children from nursery levels upwards. A girl says the library would be “chaotic” without the orderly presence of a librarian, while another boy fears there would be a “much different atmosphere in the school…you just wouldn’t be able to pick the right book without her help”.”
  • Dorset – Dorset County Council to consult on scrapping school library service – Dorset Echo. “The service that provides library resources to schools across the county could be on its way out due to a lack of up take. A decision was set to be made by Dorset County Council’s Cabinet but it was deferred so further consultation can take place. A report said that only 26 percent of schools used the service either on a subscription or a pay-as-you use basis and that during the past five years the service had not achieved the corporate income target and had returned a budget deficit. ” … “A note on the school library service section of the Dorset County Council website says that the future of the service is currently under review and that it will be offered until the end of the summer term, July 2016 only, pending a decision. “
  • East Renfrewshire – Barrhead Foundry Success – SLIC. “The Barrhead Foundry in East Renfrewshire has won the physical category award at this year’s EDGE Conference, for their integrated Library & Sports Centre Project. The Foundry, which opened last January, gives local residents access to a first-class library, enhanced sports facilities, café, business centre, digital hub and free WiFi. There are also flexible meeting spaces for local organisations and community groups and a soft play area for children.”.  Library is open 7.30am to 10pm weekdays, 9am to 6pm weekends.
  • Enfield – Council plans to lease library space to “external operators” – This is Local London.  Fears over library usage of five libraries if leased out to others. “So far only the lease details of Enfield Island Village have been released, and while it is said that the use would be as a public library it also states that “subject to landlord’s consent, other uses will be considered”.  … “Warren Sherman, 46, who has used Enfield’s libraries all his life, said he was concerned that the plans were the beginning of the end for the services in their current state. “
  • Greenwich – Greenwich school wins £20,000 WBD award – BookSeller. “Patterson helped pick Eltham Hill School as the winner along with Jane Jackson from library furniture company BookSpace, World Book Day director Kirsten Grant, The Sun books columnist Natasha Harding and children’s laureate Chris Riddell. Eltham Hill School won £10,000 of books and £10,000 worth of library furniture for its response to the question ‘where does your reading take you?’. Pupils at the school wrote hundreds of postcards to their friends, family, favourite writers and fictional characters, which were then published in a book.”
  • Kirklees – Mobile libraries have now become a thing of the past as Kirklees Council axes its service – Telegraph and Argus. “Under Kirklees Council’s plan, the mobile library service, operating in six areas including Birkenshaw, has now been withdrawn. Coun Graham Turner, Kirklees Council’s cabinet member for resources, previously said the plan was the best balance between achieving the service ambitions of everybody having access to a library, and the budget demands of saving £1.8m. “When we started looking at what we could deliver within our reduced budget, I wanted to make sure that we preserved as much of the service as possible and to ensure that we could provide as many access points to a library service as possible, and not embark on a wholesale closure programme. I believe with the help of volunteers and hardworking committed staff we have achieved this.””
  • Lambeth – Will Self joins march against Lambeth library closures – BookSeller. “Celebrities Joanna Lumley, Richard Ayoade and Mark Rylance have lent their support to the campaign against the “irrational” decision to alter the Lambeth library service, according to a campaign group, while over 500 campaigners marched on Saturday (5th March) to protest against the libraries’ closure.”
  • Lancashire – Strong support as battles continue to save libraries – Chorley Guardian. “Hundreds of people visited a village library in the latest event calling for the doors to stay open. Around 400 people went to Euxton Library on Saturday morning, including Chorley MP Lindsay Hoyle, Euxton Parish Council chairman Katrina Reed and councillors Peter Wilson, Mark Perks, Danny Gee and Mark Jarnell. They were joined by local residents, as well as campaigners from Adlington and Coppull libraries and supporters from around the North West.”
  • Lancashire – Wheatley Lane Library to close – Lancashire County Council. “The library, on Wheatley Lane in Fence, has been run by Lancashire County Council with financial support from Pendle Borough Council since 2006. Without this provision, the library would have closed at this time, as part of plans to close seven other libraries.  Under these current shared arrangements with the county council to keep the library open, Pendle Borough Council has covered the salary of the member of staff who works there and the running costs of the building. Lancashire County Council has met other costs during this time to keep the library running, including buying books and making the peoples’ network computer available.
    Pendle Borough Council’s latest budget included the proposal to withdraw funding from Wheatley Lane Library from 1 April, meaning that the library will have to close on Thursday 31 March. ” … “Discussions are currently ongoing between Lancashire County Council, Pendle Borough Council and the Village Hall Management Committee regarding the future management and use of the building. ” see also Wheatley Lane Library is the latest casualty of cuts – 2BR.
  • Leeds – Leeds libraries win two national awards – Yorkshire Evening Post. “Leeds’ library service won two Highly Commended honours at the 2016 National Coding Awards last week. The city’s Leeds Central Library and Headingley Library were recognised for their Hour of Code activity sessions last year.”
  • Leicestershire – New chapter ruled out for Barwell Library’s future – Nuneaton News. “The move to close Barwell Library, been taken by Leicestershire County Council, has been condemned by campaigners. Lib Dem councillor Michael Mullaney, who has worked with a number of residents in a bid to save it from the axe, has slammed the Conservative-run cabinet for their actions. It’s the first library to be closed following a decision that the county’s community libraries needed to be taken over by volunteer groups in order to stay open.”
  • Northamptonshire – Northampton Borough Council could draw up plans to become a unitary authority – Northampton News. “Northampton Borough Council was to have unitary status, it would maintain responsibility for services such as rubbish collection, housing and planning applications, while taking on the county council’s roles on education, transport, fire and rescue service and libraries. This single-tier authority is similar to proposals recently outlined by councils in Oxfordshire, where there are plans for eight districts and a county council to become four local unitary districts – one of which would join up Cherwell District Council, in North Oxfordshire, with South Northants Council”
  • South Gloucestershire – South Gloucestershire Council announces drop-in events on cuts to libraries, One Stop Shops and offices – Gazette Series. “Cllr Riddle’s ruling Conservative party has, however, come under fire from opposition councillors for failing to protect frontline services and instead unanimously voting to uphold a manifesto pledge to axe the £36 opt-in green bin charge imposed in 2014. The budget would not stretch to scrapping the cost entirely but instead the party agreed to cut £6 from the annual bill of those people who pay to have their green bin emptied once a fortnight.”
  • Suffolk – Stradbroke Library praised and scoops national award – Diss Express. “The judges said: “Stradbroke Library Post Office exemplifies how libraries can be the heart of the community, and the vital role both libraries and post offices play in enhancing community life and wellbeing. The increasing number of visits and issues, not to mention the increase in non-users visiting the library, is testimony to the success of the initiative. Through co-location and working in partnership with the local community and by looking to increase its income, Stradbroke embodies a forward-looking and engaged way of working that is as exciting as it is commendable.”
  • Swindon – Fears libraries could be lost if people do not come forward – Swindon Advertiser. “However, some of those sessions have been attended by very few people and Councillor Derique Montaut (Lab, Liden, Eldene and Park South) fears this will lead to services closing without people realising. “At one session I heard there were only six people and when asked if they would get involved no-one came forward,” he said. “This plans have been pushed through so are going to happen. I don’t know if people think there will be some last minute change but that isn’t going to happen.”
  • West Berkshire – Campaigners give council 30 ‘alternatives’ to cuts – Newbury Today. “The council is proposing to close four children’s centres, eight libraries and one care home, as well as slashing funding for theatres, roads maintenance, CCTV cameras and public toilets. A campaign group called ‘West Berkshire Save Our Services’ has been set up to fight the proposals. The group held two public meetings last week to discuss the cuts and, based on the feedback received, has put together a list of suggestions which it says it believes is an effective response to anyone who claims there is no alternative to the current “destructive spiral of cuts”.”  Includes “Start a scheme where people become a “supporter of libraries” and pay just £1 a year for their library ticket. Potential income to the council – £400,000 a year. [Charging for library membership is illegal under the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act – Ed.]; Instead of closing libraries, recognise the libraries as assets that can be used for the community. For example, as day care or drop-in centres; Use the libraries to bring in revenue, by selling refreshments or renting out the premises when they are not in use; Expand the mobile library service to fill in any gaps; Explore a new “self-service” system for some libraries, which saved the local authority in Peterborough £300,000 a year. [This is Open+ – Ed.]