It looks like my last editorial pointing out the inadequacies in the House of Commons Library report on public libraries which somehow missed the existence of CIPFA and selectively quoted DCMS figures helped contribute to quite a stir.  I had foolishly imagined that the HoC Library had actually asked the DCMS for the information but it turns out that the department knew nothing about the report until it was published.  So much for joined up government.  Many thanks, though, to the Head of Libraries at the DCMS (Simon Richardson) for basically answering my questions point for point in his post on the Taskforce blog.  It looks like the devil is in the detail of definitions, meaning that while you, I, my dog currently asleep on the sofa opposite, etc know that many libraries have closed or at the very least left council funding, or been hollowed out almost to the state of oblivion, the official government figures for closures are very conservative (small c, obviously). This clearly needs sorting out and I’m glad to see the Taskforce is trying to do that, because otherwise our MPs and others are in danger of being misled about the impact of what is going on.



  • Unprogramming – Simplifying events to increase attendance.
  • Wordblend – Ask public to write extract from favourite book on wall, in their own native language.

National news

  • Are new libraries rarer than the giant panda? – Libraries Taskforce. “[Editors note: Spring 2016 is seeing a number of new libraries opening. We look forward to seeing new buildings in Slough, Bicester and Solihull – plus later in the year, the culmination of the Re:New project in Chester. We invited Ayub Khan from Warwickshire and Neil MacInnes from Manchester to tell us about the new libraries in their networks.]”.  Looks at Southam and Alcester in Warwickshire. Also looks at Arcadia Library and Leisure Centre in Manchester.

“Alcester and Southam are not just refurbishments but totally new libraries. They are not large central libraries either. In Warwickshire, we are feeling the pinch, like everyone else, but we continue to invest in our local communities – providing customers with the convenience of multiple services in one location. We believe these partner projects will prove more sustainable in the long term – enabling different services to maintain a strong local presence by sharing costs and safeguarding their future.”

  • CILIP in Kent event: Diversity, Inclusivity and Equality in Libraries – Contrary Librarian. “There are many ways in which we may unknowingly contribute to inequalities, biases, and ethnocentrism and power imbalances’. I was therefore surprised to discover the conference was held in an inaccessible room up two flights of stairs.”
  • Courts could well sit in libraries instead of pubs – Telegraph / Letters. “Libraries would seem to offer viable alternative venues to hotels and pubs for court sittings. In the late Seventies I sat as a captain on a court martial in Portadown, Northern Ireland, when the proceedings were constantly interrupted by helicopter activity near the courtroom. In the end, the presiding judge called for the convening officer and demanded that the court be relocated, as he was unable to concentrate on his summing-up. We reconvened the following day and discharged our duties in the quiet of the large library in the barracks at Lisburn. If shared costs and usage could be agreed, being able to conduct sittings in this manner could act as a lifeline for libraries faced with closure. Col JMC Watson (retd)  Welford, Berkshire” [I’m trying hard not to comment on this – Ed.]
  • Entries open for the CILIP Libraries Change Lives Award 2016 – CILIP. “Entries are now open for the CILIP Libraries Change Lives Award 2016, the highest accolade a library service in the UK can win. Now in its twenty-fifth year the Award is open to all UK-based library, information and knowledge-based services or initiatives that have a positive and demonstrable impact on their user community. Entries are welcome from any sector such as education, prisons, health Government, private companies and public libraries. CILIP is seeking applications from practitioners representing library and information services or initiatives which can clearly demonstrate the value added to their organisation or community and which reflect innovation, intelligent service design or best practice delivery. Three finalists will be selected and a £4,000 prize will be donated by CILIP to support the continued delivery of the winning service.”
  • House of Commons library serving 650 MPs in Westminster – BBC. “MPs have their own library, which has thousands of books, but also gives them access to research staff who pull together briefings on every subject from local government funding to household recycling figures. Although it is only open to MPs, Daily Politics reporter Ellie Price was allowed inside and spoke to John Prince, who is retiring after 44 years, and to Penny Young, director general of Information Services.”
  • Libraries, museums and archives across Wales scoop national awards for marketing excellence – Welsh Libraries. “The awards are part of the Welsh Government’s ‘Attracting the Audience’ programme for museums, archives and libraries”.  Public libraries: First Place – Bridgend: E-promo. Highly Commended – Powys Libraries: Relocation of Llandrindod Library. Highly Commended – Denbighshire Libraries: Volunteering Opportunities for young people.” Rhianwen Long of Merthyr Tydfil Libraries won “Library Marketing Champion” award.
  • The Library – Pear Drop.  Bi-monthly magazines dedicates this issue to the library, including The Feast of St Jerome and St Valentine and Editor’s Note. “If you have any overdue loans at home, take them back. If you have fines, pay what you can. More people reading are more powerful than the money. Cut out and take along the coupon below.Look at the shelves, find something to borrow.Try and find the youngest and oldest people there. Ask the people working there what they like to read.Listen to the silence. Or the singing. Or the staff gossiping.”
  • Parliamentary Report on Libraries: a response – Libraries Taskforce. “As many of you have noticed, the House of Commons Library recently published a Report on Public Libraries. It updated a similar report published in 2011. The Libraries Taskforce team and DCMS libraries policy team would like to confirm that we were neither asked to contribute or comment on this report and had no notice of it pre-publication.” … “There has been criticism that the answer didn’t draw on CIPFA data. However, the answer was prepared in that way as CIPFA data wasn’t available to answer the question fully. The historical CIPFA data provides information about the net numbers of library service points recorded by library authorities as being within the statutory library service and does not, for example, set out details about the number of public libraries in statutory library services in England that have closed since 2010.”
  • Reading Agency Announces The Summer Reading Challenge Book Collection Titles – Booktrade.info. “‘We’re very happy to have so many of our titles included in the Summer Reading Challenge this year. It’s an absolutely fantastic initiative to put books into the hands of both children who already have a passion for reading and those who still have that passion to discover. The libraries involved are so enthusiastic that it is impossible for any child involved in the Challenge not to enjoy themselves.”
  • Scotland’s Libraries: Cornerstones of Democracy in Schools and Communities – CILIPS. “Without high quality school libraries, schools are not only depriving pupils of the opportunity to reach their full academic potential, but also denying them a chance to develop as informed political agents. It is crucial to oppose the myth that There Is No Alternative and challenge the flawed notion that our libraries, with the potential they have to provide access to information and support the development of informed and knowledgeable citizens, are not worthy of investment. Investing in our school and public libraries is an investment in citizens and in democracy, now and for the future”

International news

  • Australia – Cuts will mean fewer services: libraries – West Australian. “Public Libraries WA and the Australian Library and Information Association said the effect of $1.6 million in State Government cuts over two years would mean 62,000 fewer books for WA’s 232 public libraries. They also warned a program that delivered Better Beginnings reading packs to parents could be at risk through lost delivery services. The Government denied it would be affected.”
  • Australia – Lord Mayor unveils new $60m Perth City ‘loungeroom’ library – Perth Now. “Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi has dubbed it the City’s “lounge room” as technology and architecture change the way we use our civic buildings. The first thing that’s sure to set chins wagging will be the huge ceiling artwork named ‘Delight and Hurt Not’ by renowned West Australian artist Andrew Nicholls..”
  • Hong Kong – Hong Kong public libraries losing popularity – South China Morning Post. “The number of visits to the city’s 18 district libraries declined by 3 per cent between 2012 and 2014, while the circulation of e-books in public libraries fell by 7 per cent between 2011 and 2014, according to a research brief released by the Legislative Council Secretariat on Monday. Meanwhile, the numbers of books multimedia items on loan decreased by a cumulative 11 per cent and 52 per cent respectively between 2005 and 2014. The document attributed the lacklustre library usage to the limited collection of library materials in Hong Kong. In fact, the collection of public libraries was only 1.9 items per capita in 2015. This figure was about one third less than average for developed cities.”
  • USA – Unprogramming with Amy Koester – Public Libraries Online.

Local news by authority

  • Barnet – ‘Libraries could be saved if council votes for our alternative budget’ – Barnet and Whetstone Press. “Axing certain senior management jobs at Barnet Council could raise more than a million pounds which could help save library services in the borough.vAccording to Barnet’s Labour Group, a further £500,000 could be raised by slashing the council’s spending on consultants and agency staff, and around £338,000 could be made by reducing spending on council communications.” … “It’s estimated that around £2.2 million is needed to save library services.”
  • Bradford – Children across Bradford prepare for literacy larks on World Book DayTelegraph and Argus. “Children across Bradford will be dressing as their favourite literary characters on Thursday as libraries and schools across the district celebrate World Book Day. As well as events in schools, Bradford’s libraries will host events for children, and some big name children’s authors will pop in to talk about their creations.”
  • Bradford – Library’s £240,000 refurbishment failed to ‘take into consideration’ disabled people, critics claim – Telegraph and Argus. “Concerns emerged after an angry resident, who was visiting Eccleshill Library, was forced to struggle up a flight of stairs to access a toilet. Clare Pollard, 65, who suffers from Parkinson’s and uses a rollator walking frame, had to be helped up a flight of 17 steps to a first floor toilet at the Bolton Road library and information centre by family members.” … “she says there are no toilet facilities specifically for disabled people at the library, only men’s and ladies’ toilets. Bradford Council said it had managed to fund “essential repairs” to the decades-old library, but did not have money available for “additional works” before reopening the building last year.” … “The library was closed for four months for maintenance and refurbishment work and re-opened on March 30 last year. “
  • Brent – Wordblend – Brent Council. “Come and write on paper covering the gallery walls, an excerpt of your favourite book in your native language. We provide all the materials. In Brent there are 130 languages spoken.  Help us to gather on our exhibition walls as many as possible”
  • Buckinghamshire – Bucks libraries could be run as charities due to budget cuts – Get Bucks. “The council’s transport, environment and communities select committee was presented with three options for the future of the service on Tuesday, March 1 for the future of the library service in Bucks following research. The options are; to leave the service as it is, with council management funded by the taxpayer through the county’s budget; to out source the service to a competitive tender and have an external organisation run it on a council contract; or to set up and run libraries as a new not for profit organisation through a commissioning contract with the county council.” see also Changes to Bucks Libraries Being ‘Looked Into’ – Mix 96.
  • Cambridgeshire – Creative writing is alive and kicking with workshops at March and Chatteris library – Wisbech Standard. “Thanks to popular demand the Fen Speak Poetry Collective have organised a series of workshops where beginners and more experienced writers of all ages are welcome to hone their art.”
  • Cheshire West and Chester – Cheshire backs World Book Day – Cheshire Today. ” by inviting schools and children into their local library to discover the fabulous range of books and resources on offer.” … “As part of World Book Day celebrations the Council’s libraries will also be hosting special productions of ‘Bardolph’s Box’ – a fantastic fun-paced introduction to Shakespeare’s stories for all the family
  • Croydon – Council accused of ‘shoddy’ deal on Crystal Palace library – Inside Croydon. “A row has broken out between trustees and library campaigners over Croydon Council’s £85,000 per year, two-year funding grant for Upper Norwood Joint Library, with activists dismissing the Labour-run council’s plans as “shoddy” and accusing them of trying to steer the public amenity towards a volunteer model of operation which has repeatedly been rejected by residents.”
  • Darlington – Bestselling authors join fight to save Darlington’s Crown Street library from closure – Northern Echo. “Madame Doubtfire author Anne Fine and Philippa Gregory, author of The Other Boleyn Girl, have accused Darlington councillors of using the library as a “soft target” for cuts. ” … “In a strongly worded missive, Ms Fine – who lives in County Durham – said any councillor considering using the library as such “should know themselves for the defeatist, bureaucratic vandals they are”.” … Philippa Gregory: “The closure of this library would be of particular disgrace to the North-East, which has a strong tradition of self-education and an industrial investment in the education of the public.” Peter James: ““Without libraries, who will give the new generations their passion for reading good books?”
  • Darlington – Sacrificing our libraries – Northern Echo. “The Dolphin Centre is a fine swimming pool and municipal sports complex. It is not, and never will be, a purpose-built lending library. The Dolphin Centre is a sports hub. It is bright and noisy. Visitors are greeted by pop music played over the public address system and sounds of swimmers having fun. It is the antithesis of Crown Street library where generations of children and adults have studied in quiet contemplation. Levering a library into the Dolphin Centre will cost Darlington Borough Council a considerable amount of money – cash that could be used to sustain the Crown Street library.”
  • Lambeth – Escalating library strikes can bring Lambeth Council bosses to book – Socialist Worker. “The Unison union has announced that it will consult its members working for Lambeth Council over a council-wide strike against library cuts. The south London borough’s Labour-run council wants to close or run down ten libraries. Library workers have already struck twice. The union is urging members to vote yes.”
  • Lewisham – The Future of Forest Hill Library – Forest Hill Society. “The major concern from the Forest Hill Society is that levels of book borrowing continue to be maintained and we do not see the 70% drops that other community libraries have experienced in the last 4 years (compared to a drop of just 4% in Forest Hill over the same period). To achieve this the council needs to ensure that their IT systems are able to work properly with the community libraries, levels of stock must be retained, primary school  visits must be facilitated, and volunteer levels must be sufficient to keep the library open seven days a week, from morning to late evening.”
  • Merthyr Tydfil – A library is letting people pay their fines with food to help people in need – Wales Online. “‘Food for Fines’ will run throughout March, and work in conjunction with Merthyr charity Donation Station, a volunteer group which collects food and clothes donations, to share between various charities in the town.”
  • Surrey – East Surrey book lovers owe more than £70k in library fines – Surrey Mirror. “According to figures released to the Mirror, borrowers across the county owe Surrey County Council’s library service £383,326″ … “”We are trying to raise income and it [unpaid fees] can have an impact. The more charges are paid the easier it is for us to raise the income that then feeds back into the council services. “Those borrowers who bring their books back on time, it has an impact on them because there’s less services for them to borrow.”
  • Swindon – Campaigners opposed to Swindon library proposals – Swindon Advertiser. As a result, the 14 libraries will need to be run by volunteers or they could be closed with only central library staying in council control. However, many are opposed to the move, saying even if volunteers take over the service will suffer. On Tuesday, campaigners gathered outside the Old Town library to collect signatures from those using the facility.”