Well, that was quite amazing.  I woke up to public libraries on the radio, had breakfast to libraries on TV, drove to work with libraries on the radio, had lunch to libraries on the radio while reading about libraries in the newspaper  and ate my tea with libraries mentioned on TV. This may be the most publicity public libraries have had that I can remember and it has been an honour, although a terrifying one (I live in fear of saying the wrong thing) to be involved.  Well done to the many many library advocates (notably Alan Gibbons, Lauren Smith and Nick Poole but so many others) who waded in on the pro library and librarian side.  It’s worth noting that a particularly telling and key advocate was Jim Brooks from Little Chalfont who, even though a volunteer, made it clear that he’d far prefer the council to run the library.

It was interesting, and depressing, to see some of the responses on the other side.  The opaquely funded rightwing thinktank, the Institute of Economic Affairs, on BB1 Breakfast, clearly did not understand that people still depend on libraries and wouldn’t have cared if it did. Ed Vaizey, whose reason behind his normal silence on libraries is normally guessed to be a lack of awareness of what is going on, spoke out loudly to say volunteers are not replacing paid staff: thus proving he really doesn’t know what is going on. Over in print form, ex New Labour spin doctor (and librarian for a few minutes before he got a better paid job) John McTernan argued in the Telegraph that the internet has made libraries obsolete, presumably not noticing that the same argument could be used to disprove the newspaper he was writing for. Those interviewers, notably Jeremy Vine on Radio Two, who asked what special skills training a librarian could possibly have and why they should be paid, were  answered well, although  I really wish someone had asked him what special training a radio DJ needed and how much he was paid.

Some other things to ponder. Those statistics, dark as they are, seem on the low side. It looks to me like a lot of authorities had their cake and ate it too, saying that libraries were not closing and not counting the volunteers who took over those libraries that they withdrew paid staff from. I’m looking into this but they may have got away with it, this time. Another thing is the response of the profession.  Do we, as the SCL and the Taskforce are sometimes seen to do, insist that usage and libraries are just changing and agree with Ed Vaizey that libraries are thriving, just in different oh-so-exciting ways? Or do we go the doom and gloom route? I can see the reasoning for both views. The answer is, as ever, one suspects, somewhere in the middle but, as the sometimes contrived debates of yesterday shows, the media – and politicians – may not be interested in nuance.

National news

  • Please note that pretty much all national newspapers and many local newspapers covered this story – the list below can only be seen as a snapshot.
  • Ann Cleeves: Why we need to save the Great British librarian from extinction – Yorkshire Post. “In wake of a new report which shows 350 libraries have closed in the last six years, crimewriter Ann Cleeves on why we all need to fight for a happy ending to this particular story” … “Since the programme of library closures began it often seems that we have only talked about the buildings which are in danger of disappearing.” … “Most of these volunteers tend to be older, often retired. They may love books. They may believe passionately in libraries, but are they the best people to organise events for a bunch of teenagers with piercings and tattoos? I would suggest probably not. “

“Libraries will only survive if they are social, vibrant places where people can discuss books, staffed by experts in their field. Libraries and librarians aren’t a luxury. To ensure education is open to all they are a necessity.” Ann Cleeves

  • BBC investigation finds 8,000 library jobs lost in six years – BookSeller. “Anstice said: “The research from the BBC puts to bed once and for all the ridiculous claim by Ed Vaizey that it is only Labour-run authorities that are cutting libraries. However, to hear him on BBC Radio Four saying that library closures are nothing to do with budget cuts shows that he is still, worryingly, not entirely in touch with reality.”[I’m quoting myself – madness will surely ensue – Ed.]. Laura Swaffield, chair of the Library Campaign, also praised the BBC’s report but criticised the lack of government action. She said: “This is the kind of research the DCMS should be doing – regularly. Without this BBC project, we’d be stuck as usual with last December’s CIPFA figures, which are now a full year old. The Taskforce was meant to be sorting out CIPFA, but I see no sign of it yet.”

“Volunteers have always been a vibrant part of our library service, but they cannot replace the expertise, ethics and professional skills of qualified staff who are fundamental to providing the quality library services that we are entitled to by law”, Poole said. “Through CILIP’s My Library By Right campaign we have called for our statutory rights to quality library services to be recognised, for a robust strategic plan, and for accurate and consistent use of statistics and evidence. We welcome the publication last week of Libraries Deliver, but essential that it is properly resourced and supported. A practical action plan, sufficient budget and realistic long-term funding proposals, along with a transparent and timely approach to monitoring and reporting must be in place if it is to success.”” Nick Poole

  • BBC investigation reveals cuts to public libraries – National Literacy Trust. “The National Literacy Trust recognises the importance of the library service in helping to raise literacy levels in the UK. Libraries play a crucial role in supporting early language development, giving children the opportunity to discover new books and encouraging reading for enjoyment. They also provide a space for adults to develop basic skills and are social places for the whole community. Libraries are vital for literacy across the UK and work most effectively when library services are tailored to the needs of the local community.”
  • Book borrowing figures show library habits are changing – BBC. “Almost every part of our lives can now be conducted online, from catching up with friends to applying for jobs. The same can be said for books, as official figures show the number borrowed from libraries fell in almost every area of England over two years.” … “In Doncaster, where just five libraries are still run by the city council and 19 entrusted to community groups, there were 628,709 book “issues” in 2014, compared with 1.2 million two years earlier. ” … “The London Borough of Barking and Dagenham recorded a 51% fall in computer use, the biggest drop in England. This compared with a 249% rise in Nottinghamshire over the same period.” … “A spokesman for Barking and Dagenham council said the authority had reduced the number of computers in the wake of £100m of cuts to its government funding.”

“It makes me very sad to think of a generation of young people who won’t know the excitement of walking into their local library armed only with huge curiosity and a desire to see the world through someone else’s eyes. If we think the internet can replace that, we are wrong. It’s good for many things (for those who are lucky enough to have access to it, which isn’t everyone) but it can’t replicate time spent with an excellent book” Caroline Moran

  • British Public Library Service Faces ‘Greatest Crisis in Its History’ – NewsWeek.
  • Closing libraries is a fine way to keep the poor powerless – Independent. “Libraries represent one of the happiest accidents of British life — that somehow, across the country and outside of view of people who would otherwise shut it down, people managed to create communities unspoilt by the requirement that everything makes money. ” … “Reading is one of the most usefully mischievous, secretly rebellious acts that there is. Libraries are often said to be fusty and staid — it might be true of the buildings, but it’s not true of the books that await teenagers there”

“They’re dangerous, books, and perhaps more dangerous are the librarians that dare to give books out to children too poor and uncultured to know not to take them seriously. Libraries make people powerful — people who shouldn’t be powerful — and we’ll be weaker in untold ways without them.”

  • Don’t mourn the loss of libraries – the internet has made them obsolete – Telegraph. “Libraries are less and less popular every year – fewer than one in five of us borrowed a book from a library in the last year. That’s not surprising, really. Books are cheaper than they have ever been in real terms and we are avid readers; record numbers are being published every year. Most classic books are available for free from Project Gutenberg or for a small charge on Kindle. Second-hand books can be purchased from across the world via Alibris and Abebooks. As in so many other areas of life, as we get more prosperous we lean on public services less. ” … “We can, and should, still love books, but we should not be sentimental about libraries, because they are a means to an end. Access to information is now widely available via smartphones: three quarters of us have one, it was one in five in 2010. Library and information services have to be designed with that reality in mind. ” … “Libraries must adapt to the changing habits of adults, where there is a clear and irreversible trajectory there. But they must never abandon children. “
  • The future of libraries and volunteering – NCVO. “This feels to me like profound change. Business as usual is evidently not an option for libraries and many are looking to substantially increase the number of volunteers they involve. This then begs difficult questions about what those volunteers will do, how will they be supported to do it and, most controversially, will they be taking the jobs of paid staff in the act of doing it” … “While financial pressures are a reality, volunteering in libraries should not be solely driven by a desire to save costs. Doing so risks missing the multiple other distinct benefits they bring, from new connections to the community to a hugely diverse range of skills and experiences the library can draw upon. Libraries – and local authorities – should instead be clear what their strategic vision is for volunteering, of why and how they are involving volunteers, and what the benefits they see are.”

“This may sound counter-intuitive given much of this change is being driven by spending cuts, but it’s the old adage that volunteering is freely-given but not cost-free. It doesn’t take place in a vacuum. For volunteering to be successful in any setting, it needs investment. It needs good volunteer management and coordination, all of which costs money. The risk otherwise is that volunteers will have a poor quality experience and simply may not stick around.”

  • Hijacking and Librarians – BBC Radio 2 / Jeremy Vine. From 31.40 to 1.05 including songs. Quotes Jim Brooks from Little Chalfont saying he’s only volunteering because there’s no alternative. Alan Gibbons says biggest crisis in history. Dan Wainwright, BBC researcher reports. Speaks to Lauren Smith, who says real danger to end of libraries if DCMS “does not pull its finger out” and how important they are for democracy. Also speaks to Derby volunteer who volunteers 30 hours per wee who works supplementary to them. Jeremy Vine repeatedy asks what skills are needed to be a librarian and why they should be paid [which is a bit rich coming from a millionaire who simply talks for his job – Ed.].
  • Jilly Cooper hits out at ‘fatal’ impact of local government cuts to libraries – Telegraph. “Cooper, who has an OBE for services to literature, said the cuts were particularly worrying given that more and more children are turning to their iPad instead of a good old fashioned book. ” … “She said: “What is he [David Cameron] doing? Libraries are so important and not just for the readers but for the authors who get their cuts from them.””
  • Libraries facing ‘greatest crisis’ in their history – Guardian.
  • Libraries lose a quarter of staff as hundreds close – BBC. “Almost 8,000 jobs in UK libraries have disappeared in six years, about a quarter of the overall total, an investigation by the BBC has revealed. Over the same period, some 15,500 volunteers have been recruited and 343 libraries have closed, leading to fears over the future of the profession. Children’s author Alan Gibbons said the public library service faced the “greatest crisis in its history”. Quotes by Alan Gibbons, Philip Pullman, Hampshire and Harrow councillors, DCMS (and Northern Ireland, Scottish and Welsh counterparts), Dr Briony Bird, LGA and the SCL. [and myself too – Ed.].

– Some 343 libraries closed. Of those, 132 were mobile services, while 207 were based in buildings (and there were four others, such as home delivery services)
-The number of closures in England is higher than the government’s official estimate of 110 buildings shut
– A further 111 closures are planned this year
– The number of paid staff in libraries fell from 31,977 in 2010 to 24,044 now, a drop of 7,933 (25%) for the 182 library authorities that provided comparable data
– A further 174 libraries have been transferred to community groups, while 50 have been handed to external organisations to run. In some areas, such as Lincolnshire and Surrey, the move has led to legal challenges and protests from residents.

  • Libraries minister Ed Vaizey: Volunteers not replacing staff – BBC. “Ed Vaizey said councils should invest in branches to save money, after a BBC investigation revealed almost 8,000 jobs in UK libraries have gone. He said the way people used libraries had changed but was not “doom and gloom”.” … “The minister also denied claims by campaigners that libraries were being “hollowed” out and professional staff replaced by unpaid helpers.” … “Lauren Smith, of the Voices for the Library campaign, said: “Nobody is using volunteers in libraries by choice. They are saying to people that if you want the library to be open you have to run it yourself.”  see also Vaizey: Volunteers should not replace library staff – BookSeller.

“It’s always a changing picture,” he said. “And what I find frustrating as the libraries minister is that people try and portray the scene in libraries as complete doom and gloom. There’s a huge amount of initiative going on and a great story to tell about libraries.” Ed Vaizey

  • Libraries: The decline of a profession? – BBC. Lauren Smith on why librarians are still needed. “Volunteers may harbour prejudices and biases and could prevent people from accessing information or using the library space. Council employees are held accountable for their conduct and librarians are accountable to their professional body – there is no such accountability for volunteers.””.  Volunteer libraries examples included are the Reading Room in Rotterdam, Little Chalfont in Buckinghamshire.  Professor Reid of Robert Gordon University argues paid professional staff are still busy behind the scenes. History of public libraries. Dr Briony Bird of Sheffield says “”There has been a reduction in the number of students taking the public library modules, but we are starting to pick up numbers again. The students we have are incredibly committed and they are interested in the societal issues.”
  • Libraries need community management to survive job losses and closures – Locality – Public Sector Executive. “Tony Armstrong, CEO of Locality [a non-profit that depends on volunteer groups running services to survive – Ed.], said that community leadership may be a good solution for avoiding library closures.” … “Community-led libraries can provide a means of maintaining and enhancing library services but effective partnership between local authorities and communities is needed. Transferring libraries into community management takes time and is not a zero cost option but, done properly, can ensure library services are provided for generations to come.””
  • Papering Over The Cracks – Leon’s Library Blog. “Highlighting good news stories and ‘golden moments’ while important is unlikely to produce an epiphany regarding the value of libraries within government circles. Libraries do need positive stories, positive reinforcement about their value, and the Taskforce are right to take this on. The dichotomy however is that such stories during a period of deep cuts and cynicism regarding the government policy for libraries could lead to a disconnect from the reality of the crisis and the accusation of rose tinted Pollyannaism.”
  • Stories from the bookshelves: What does your library mean to you? – BBC. “”Lost dispiriting places with the reek of missed opportunities” or “places of innovation, spirit and community”? As the number of libraries in England falls, BBC News looks at some of the experiences of people who love or loathe visiting public libraries.” … “The service was being run down long before they started planning closures in the local authority I worked for.” … “Too many libraries are beyond redemption. They are lost dispiriting places with the reek of missed opportunities. They have also not been best served by some of their main public supporters. Having authors leading campaigns makes those campaigns look self-serving and they ignore the role modern libraries were supposed to fulfil.”
  • UK Libraries Are Closing at an Astonishing Rate – Gizmodo. “It’s a sad state of affairs, and the situation appears to be at its worst in England. More than half of the libraries in Sefton, Brent, Stoke-on-Trent and Sunderland, have closed since 2010. The government, meanwhile, reckons the rollout of Wi-Fi across libraries counts as a job done well”
  • We Asked People at the Library What They’re Doing There – Vice. “I went down to my local library in London to meet the people who use them today and to figure out what place libraries have in the modern world.” … “Fatumata has used this quieter revision venue to her advantage. “The library is a great part of the community, especially for young people who find it hard to study at home. A lot of us have a lot of siblings, and it can be very distracting sometimes. Whereas when I come to the library all my distractions disappear.” ” … “Sebastian was using the library because he doesn’t have access to a printer at home and had to print something. (Who owns a printer these days?) He was also pretty positive about his local library. “It’s a great environment to work in,” he said. “I’m a freelance producer, so I organize meetings here; there are good communal spaces and a small cafe that are perfect for them.” “
  • What does your local library mean to you? – Guardian. “When we asked readers for their love letters to libraries, we had a number of touching responses, including this one from a librarian in Norwich … “What I didn’t know was that one of the women was being beaten and terrorised by her partner. And the only time he let her leave on her own was to attend this weekly rhymetime. Over the year she gained the confidence and courage to speak to other mums and SureStart staff. And slowly but surely, she let others know that she felt that her and her children’s lives were in danger.”
  • Why library closures are a disaster for our kids – Metro. “Local authorities need to save money. I accept that councils have difficult decisions to make. But difficult decisions don’t have to be bad ones.” … “If the wholesale closure of our local libraries carries on we are failing future generations. We are failing our very own children.” Looks at closures in Lambeth. “If your local library is under threat please lobby your councillors and MP.”

Local news by authority

“If library users in the London borough of Barnet weren’t already concerned about the bonkers plans for automated unstaffed library opening, they certainly will be now following the complete collapse of the library service computer system. The Capita-run IT system crashed during an update on 3 March, leaving the catalogue and online reference services inaccessible, the digital lending system for ebooks and audiobooks unreachable, borrowers unable to renew books and library staff unable to fine late returners (costing the library service around £200 a day).

It was only after this happened that the library service found that the regular back-ups of the system had all been failing since last year.  When a reboot was attempted, it corrupted the system.  According to a report to councillors, the most recent undamaged proper back-up of the system dates from March 2014.  Another company, Infor, has been brought in to try to rescue the corrupted data. As the Eye went to press, many systems had still not been restored.  Wifi and printers were back up and running but anyone trying to log into their library account remotely to download ebooks got a “server availability error” message.  Books can only be checked out in branches thanks to an emergency back-up system.

Barnet is still due to consider approving plans for libraries to be open with no staff at some times of day, using card-operated doors and book-scanning machines.  The pilot scheme at Edgware has been put on hold since the door entry system needed access to the faulty database to check users’ PINs.” Barnet – Library News – Private Eye 1415 (not available online)

  • Bradford – Memories of the mobile library service in Bradford – Telegraph and Argus. “Book lending is something many no longer need to do with the ease and availability of e-readers but there is something special about swapping books from a library. Firstly, there is the thrill of finding the book you want to read by actually thumbing through copies on a shelf instead of scrolling down a list of front covers on a screen”
  • Cheshire East – Crewe Library building to close today – Crewe Chronicle. “The new library will open in the lifestyle centre on April 11 when all books and services will have been moved across ” … “The first day of the new library will be marked by cutting a cake and serving refreshments from 10.30am and there will be balloons for the younger visitors plus an opportunity to have photographs taken with special guest, the Big Blue Bookstart Bear”
  • Gloucestershire – Libraries in Gloucestershire lose staff but gain volunteers since 2010, figures reveal – Gloucester Citizen. “Libraries in Gloucestershire have also taken a hit. In 2010 there were 270 paid employees in the county’s libraries, but now there’s just 184. But staff working at Gloucestershire’s community libraries have said its not all doom and gloom having seen a surge in their numbers of volunteers” … library volunteer says “In Gloucestershire at the moment the library service works quite efficiently. But we’re waiting to see what funding the council offer us from March 2017.”
  • Isle of Wight – Isle of Wight library staff: Cut by more than half in last six years – On the Wight. “If you follow the national news you might have seen the BBC’s report on Tuesday about the cuts to library staff over the last six years. They revealed that “almost 8,000 jobs in UK libraries have disappeared in six years, about a quarter of the overall total”. Here on the Isle of Wight the figures are rather more stark with more than half of library staff losing their jobs. The picture in 2010:  On 1st April 2010, the Isle of Wight library service had 20 full-time staff and ten relief staff.There were 51 part time staff (this included six Saturday assistants and eleven Sunday assistants on weekly hours of seven or less). That’s a total of 81 staff. Where we are today:  Fast forward to 1 April 2016 the number of full-time has dropped to 14, whilst relief staff are reduced to nine. The part-time roles have been hit the hardest with just 13 remaining (plus one funded by Ventnor Town Council). That’s a total of 36 staff.”
  • Lambeth – Candlelit vigils set to be held for doomed Lambeth libraries – London Evening Standard. “Protesters are holding candlelit vigils and “farewell parties” at south London libraries closing this week. Lambeth residents will gather at Carnegie Library in Herne Hill tomorrow for a children’s storytime and Easter egg hunt from 11am. Supporters are also holding a farewell party from 4pm to 6pm and will stage a vigil from 6pm until late at the Carnegie and the Minet library in Camberwell.”
  • Lincolnshire – Libraries run by volunteers in Lincolnshire could be ‘unsustainable’ – Lincolnshire Echo. Council says that with 700 volunteers, it’s sustainable.
  • Northern Ireland – Libraries: More people in NI using facilities says DCAL – BBC. “DCAL said a strategic review in 2009 had led to the closure of 13 libraries, but there were no plans to close any more. It said Culture Minister Carál Ní Chuilín had secured Northern Ireland Executive agreement for a proposal that reductions to the Libraries NI budget be capped at 7.5%, instead of the 11.2% cap enforced elsewhere across the department. “These actions helped to ensure that there were no further library closures,” the department said. It also said £17m had been invested in library capital projects since 2010, including new facilities in Lisnaskea, County Fermanagh, and Kilkeel and Moira in County Down.”
  • South Gloucestershire – Support to save Hanham Library grows with song written to protest South Gloucestershire cutbacks – Bristol Post. “Not only have nearly 1,500 people signed a petition to protect Hanham Library from having its opening hours slashed, a song has also been written protesting against changes to funding.” … “”We’re so passionate about the library,” said mum-of-two Abi Unwin, who is spearheading the campaign group to protect it. “I have never been involved in anything like this before and I feel so strongly about it.”
  • Staffordshire – Three ways to celebrate Tolkien in Staffordshire during the Easter break – Staffordshire Council. ” Staffordshire’s libraries are giving residents three different ways to celebrate the county’s links with the world famous author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. As well as hosting a brand new exhibition exploring in depth Tolkien’s time in Staffordshire during the Great War, libraries are also inviting residents to celebrate both Tolkien Reading Day on Friday 25 March, and experience a series of walks across picturesque Cannock Chase, exploring the landscape and geography which influenced the author’s early writings.”
  • Suffolk – Suffolk Libraries launch project to help youngsters’ mental health through reading – Ipswich Star. “Suffolk Libraries has organised the launch of the project with a special event called ‘Building wellness through reading’ in which a host of organisations will come together to help schools and colleges recognise how reading can be used to tackle mental health crisis. Krystal Vittles, innovation and development manager for Suffolk Libraries, said: “This event will provide schools with a solid understanding of how to develop a reading culture to promote wellness and good mental health amongst their students.”
  • Sunderland – Sunderland among the worst for axing libraries with more than half of branches closed, figures show – Sunderland Echo. “Sunderland is one of four areas where more than half the libraries have closed since 2010, either buildings, mobile or both. It has lost nine static libraries and two mobile libraries since that time, however, there are no plans to close any more this year”
  • Worcestershire – Paid library jobs plunge 49 per cent across Worcestershire as hordes of volunteers take their place – Worcester News. “New data has revealed how Worcestershire County Council has just 137 paid staff across its libraries compared to 272 six years ago. The savage reduction in professional work has led to a huge rise in volunteers, which stands at a whopping 449 compared to 175 in 2010. The rapid change, which has coincided with severe funding squeezes from central Government, has been described as “scandalous” from the opposition Labour Party.”