The power and limitation of protest was seen in Lambeth, in spades, this week.  The sit-in – for a very impressive week and more, with quite a few involved – attracted a lot of attention and culminated in what appears to be well over a thousand marching in the borough’s streets on Saturday.  I’ll say that again, well over a thousand. Marching, In the streets. For a library. The protest deeply embarrassed the council (or should have done, of which more in a tiny bit) and was reported in the national as well as local media. The local councillors, and anyone else paying attention, now conclusively know that libraries are a (in the words of the Institute of Economic Affairs ant-library spokesman a week or two ago) “hot button” issue and, if you close them without co-opting the public onto your side (e.g. “Volunteer or the library will close”) then you’re in for a world of political hurt.  The reputation of GLL, who must have come into this thinking they would be seen as the good guys, has also been somewhat tarnished by association.

Now for the down side. The council simply got a court order and would have evicted the protesters, if the latter hadn’t left peacefully.  Also, at time of going to press, the councillors also seem not have changed their attitude one jot and the cuts will still occur. In what they apparently consider to be safe seats, councillors instead turned the blame onto the protesters themselves – accusing them of drinking wine, of all things, and suggesting they were bored of the whole thing with one councillor (seriously) tweeting a picture of a cat yawning – instead of having a hard look at why people were angry. As the Guardian points out, it made the local Labour councillors the defenders of the Conservative Government’s and directly associated them with Austerity, as well as with arrogance and a bit of incompetence thrown in.  But, these are councillors with the electorate (who voted them in) and the law on their side.  They can do what they like for their term in office and they have the power. Using power against them, in the terms of sit-ins and protest marches, is a last-ditch gamble, as many campaigners knew. Having failed to persuade the councillors by other means, it was time for the placards. But, faced with a council, which had clearly already made up it’s mind, it was the only hand of cards they had left.

National news

  • The fall and rise of subscription libraries – BBC. “In the days before public libraries, people paid for the privilege of borrowing books. But with council-run libraries experiencing a decline in users and many closing, those that require membership are seeing their numbers rise. So what exactly is the draw of the subscription library?”
  • If it weren’t for tax havens, Lambeth might be able to afford its libraries – Guardian. “Lambeth council points out that with swingeing cuts, it is forced to slash services, or provide them “creatively” to carry on providing them to residents. No one denies the council has been hit hard by cuts, but protesters feel the libraries are precious enough to warrant full protection. Some councillors in the borough have been less than sympathetic towards the occupiers. “While they knock back wine in the library, almost 5,000 homeless Lambeth children go to bed in temp accommodation,” is what one tweeted over the weekend.” … “Understandably, supporters of the library bridle at this argument: calling for a library to remain open does not lay the blame for the localised effects of the housing crisis at your door. By defending one public service, you aren’t arguing for all others to close.
“Lambeth councillors seem to have misunderstood that the fault of the current fiscal situation in the town hall should lie with the people responsible for budget cuts and austerity, not local people refusing to lie down and take the blows.”
  • Support Scotland’s Libraries – CILIPS. “As part of the CILIP in Scotland campaign ‘Scotland’s Libraries: Inspiration for the Nation’ we have produced a Manifesto for Libraries that sets out the key messages of the campaign.This Manifesto has been sent to all the main political parties with a request for a response to the achievable asks contained within it.”

International news

  • Arab Emirates / UK – Birjees S Hussain: Sad decline of libraries – Gulf Today, “There is a movement in the UK and, quite frankly, if I were there, I would most definitely have joined it. By now, I suspect you are probably thinking that this movement is totally political in nature. But no, it has nothing to do with politics but everything to do with the internet, people’s personal habits and, of course, economics. In times of crisis, or when times generally change, certain amenities that we are used to seeing are bound to be discontinued or dwindle. As we all know from experience jobs are the first things to be affected and, in some cases, they disappear to a level where people cannot survive.”
  • New Zealand – How to Measure the Digital Literacy Capabilities of Library Staff – Finding Heroes. “We know that digital literacy is not the same as digital skills. We know that becoming digitally literate is different for everyone and that it also requires ongoing practice. We also know that Belshaw’s 8 elements of digital literacy can be applied to any library situation and role. But what does this actually mean?”
  • USA – 4 lessons from the first all digital public library in the US – CILIP. “Being first isn’t easy. There are no models to replicate, no best practices to follow.  If there is any to be had, the confidence offered by research and planning looks more like mildly mitigated risk, and the only presenting certainty is that it will be a bumpy road rife with failures, great and small, and unlimited course corrections. Still, after all the best and worst case scenarios, after all the “what ifs” and after all is said and done, sometimes, the only way to know for sure, is to do. This is the context in which BiblioTech was born.  ”  … (1) We were right, even about the bumpy road part, (2) Stick to the mission, but test the limits, (3) We can do it all, but not by ourselves and (4) Embrace our idiosyncrasies.
  • USA – A homeless person enters the library. The librarian smiles – Houston Chronicle. “What Houston Public Library can teach the Texas Medical Center”
  • USA – The Public Library as InfoShop – Brian James Schill/TEDxGrandForks. “Libraries are changing in profound ways in the 21st Century. But even as public libraries move from being silent spaces to multimedia, multiuse spaces for information producers, they are doing so in the wake of an interest group which in many ways was there first: Anarchists. Developing collaborative, independent multimedia spaces known as InfoShops since at least the 1980s, the global anarchist community paved the way for what has become a trend in 21st Century library design—spaces that promote not only media for lending but hands-on arts space, performance space, alternative education, DIY culture, and civic engagement.”
  • USA – Millennials Are Out-Reading Older Generations – Atlantic. “But younger Americans value library services less than more senior cohorts, study finds.” … “Some 88 percent of Americans younger than 30 said they read a book in the past year compared with 79 percent of those older than 30. At the same time, American readers’ relationship with public libraries is changing—with younger readers less likely to see public libraries as essential in their communities.”
  • USA – Nintendo partners with SF public library to teach kids about game design – Verge. “The event was Nintendo’s idea. The game company reached out to the SFPL in particular because it operates a space known as The Mix, where kids can learn about digital tools like film editing or Photoshop. “We chose this library specifically because they really have a big focus on digital learning,” Yang says. “We thought it would be great to have Super Mario Maker be a part of that conversation as well”

Local news by authority

  • Bradford – Authors hold ‘dinosaur day’ at Bradford libraries – Telegraph and Argus. “Two children’s authors took part in a mini-tour of Bradford libraries as part of a ‘Dinosaur Day’. Louise Aaron and Steve Howson, who have both written dinosaur books for children, took part in reading sessions and games with children.”
  • Brent – Brent Library Visits Up for Fifth Consecutive Year – James Powney’s Blog. “The Council’s Libraries Transformation Project, which closed six libraries to concentrate resources on a smaller number of buildings, began in 2011 (the first column in the series).  The actual visit figures are at the bottom of this post.  The growth in book loans is less dramatic, but still significant, given the gloomy national picture.  Note the higher baseline in this graph to better illustrate the movement in the numbers.”
  • Cambridgeshire – Wisbech Library’s opening hours reduced – Fenland Citizen. “The town’s library will be shutting on a Monday afternoon from Monday, April 25. Cambridgeshire County Council needs to save £48 million over the next financial year and will save £700,000 by reducing the opening hours of libraries””
  • Darlington – Fight to save Darlington library – Darlington and Stockton Times. “Edward Pease, a member of the prominent Quaker family, gifted a magnificent library to Darlington townspeople. The council proposes to close it and move the lending library to the Dolphin Centre, home of a sports hall and swimming pool. The cost of this move is to be considerably more than the money saved. There are no plans, apparently, to store the archives – a very large collection. No buyer has been found for the impressive building which does not lend itself to flats or offices, of which there are many standing empty.”
  • Dorset – Is this the end for Dorset’s mobile libraries (and do you care?) – Bournemouth Echo. “A decline in the number of users and “unprecedented” budget pressures have been cited by Dorset County Council to justify the plan. A final decision will be made after the authority completes a public consultation, launched on Monday, into the future of the service.”
  • Lambeth – Library campaigners say council is now under greater pressure – Brixton Blog. “Lambeth council is under far greater pressure over its libraries policy than it was before the 10-day occupation of the Carnegie library in Herne Hill, the sit-in campaigners said in an exit statement. Thanking supporters, they said the occupation would not have been possible without them. “We are all part of one action to save our libraries and protect our public services,” said the statement. “We took this drastic action in the face of an intransigent council that refused to listen. 10 days ago we decided to stay in the library to stop it closing its doors for the last time.””
  • Lambeth – Passionate open letter to Cllr Lib Peck on the morning of the Save Lambeth Libraries march – Brixton Buzz. Letter points to poor understanding of the issue by councillors, lack of meaningful consultation and manipulation of the facts.
  • Lambeth – Protesters end Carnegie Library occupation and hold rally – BBC. “A nine-day occupation of a south London library has ended, only hours before those inside were due to be evicted. Campaigners for the “Defend the 10” group have been inside Carnegie Library in Loughborough Junction since 31 March, the day it was closed for a year. Lambeth Council said its plans would “guarantee” the library’s future. Protesters voluntarily left at about 12:30 BST and marched to Brixton Library to show “the fight goes on”. The Carnegie and Minet libraries officially closed for a year on 1 April. The council said they would reopen in 2017 with a gym as “healthy living centres”.”
  • Lambeth – Thousands march in library protest – Brixton Blog. “Thousands of supporters of the Defend The Ten Lambeth libraries campaign rallied in Windrush Square today (9 April) after marching there from the Carnegie library in Herne Hill via the Minet library in Myatt’s Fields. Both are closed in preparation for their conversion into “healthy living centres” to be run by Lambeth council’s leisure provider, GLL. Local campaigners were joined by library supporters from Barnet, Liverpool and elsewhere and by doctors from King’s College hospital who are campaigning against a new contract being imposed on them by government. Organisers put the number of protesters at 2,000, making one of the largest in Brixton for some time. The figure was even more impressive with a “Cameron must resign” protest in central London going on at the same time.” see also 2,000 march to support Carnegie library fightback in south London – Socialist Worker.
  • Lambeth – Why we’ll continue our fight to save Lambeth’s Carnegie Library – Guardian / Toby Litt. “What’s really amazing, and encouraging, is the imagination that has gone into the occupation. There is more fun, passion, humour and intellectual energy hanging on the iron railings outside Carnegie Library than you’ll ever find posted on a healthy living centre notice board.”
  • Lancashire – Silverdale villagers urged to have their say on library’s future – Westmorland Gazette. “A question mark hangs over the Emesgate Lane library as Lancashire County Council cuts millions of pounds’ spending. Silverdale Parish Council’s annual parish meeting heard that the number of libraries across the county will be trimmed from 74 to 34 – one in each planning area. Julie Bell, Lancashire’s head of libraries, museums, culture and registrars, said that a 12-week consultation would begin on May 16, with final decisions made on September 8. She urged members of the public to take part and said that all views would be logged”
  • Lancashire – Village takes on library fight – Lytham St Anne’s Express. “The protest against proposed cuts to local libraries switches to Freckleton this weekend as the Friends organisation at the village library stage a read-in. Following a similar event at Ansdell, which was followed by a public meeting, and a walk between St Annes, Ansdell and Lytham libraries last month, the villagers are eager to make the point about the value of their library in the face of Lancashire County Council’s plan to shut 40 of the 74 libraries”
  • North Yorkshire – North Yorkshire libraries lose 34 per cent of paid staff in five years – Harrogate Advertiser. 800 volunteers added in the same amount of time.  Paid staff will soon disappear altogether form 20 libraries.
  • Pembrokeshire – Library plan is part of £3.4m transformation of Riverside indoor market in Haverfordwest – Western Telegraph. “PLANS for the long-awaited new County Library in Haverfordwest have been revealed today (Friday) as part of a transformation of the town’s Riverside market. Pembrokeshire County Council is to receive almost £300,000 in funding for the facility. The grant will go towards a £3.4 million scheme to transform the indoor market. It is anticipated the flagship project will act as a catalyst for the regeneration of Haverfordwest. The new facility will also house a fully integrated Tourism Information Centre, a Life Hub zone – with access to financial and health information – as well as a coffee shop and a top class exhibition gallery through a ground-breaking partnership with the National Library of Wales.”
  • Shropshire – High Court quashes decision to close Shropshire Library – Doughty Street Chambers. “On 5 April 2016, at the beginning of a three day judicial review hearing into Shropshire council’s decision to close Church Stretton Library, the defendant Council conceded that its decision was unlawful, agreed to quash the closure decision, and to lawfully reconsult. The challenge to the Council’s decision to close Church Stretton library and relocate it within a local school was brought by local resident and library user Andrew Williams, with the support of Church Stretton Library Support Group (‘CSLSG’).” …”The Defendant has at no stage during these proceedings invited the Claimant or CSLSG to submit an expression of interest  to run the Library pursuant to the Localism Act 2011. Indeed, the 2nd reason the Defendant was prepared to accept that its decision was unlawful was that it had not properly directed the Claimant’s attention to the possibility of submitting an expression of interest under the Localism Act 2011, and/or that it had failed to treat CSLSG’s proposal to keep the library where it is as an expression of interest pursuant to s81 of the 2011 Act.”

“at the door of the court, the Council accepted that its decision was unlawful and agreed to the decision being quashed. In particular, the Council accepted that it does not have a section 7 PLMA compliant library policy, and that it had not properly considered the Claimant and CSLSG’s proposal under the Localism Act 2011.”